posted on 10/2007 By:
Unlike my esteemed colleague, I’m no Darkthrone aficionado. Other than their early 90’s necrotrinity (which, honestly, doesn’t strike me in the way that classic albums should) I’ve watched the duo’s career fly by from a distance. The story reads: Another year, another Darkthrone album…another yawn of indifference on my end. But the buzz/furor surrounding The Cult Is Alive’s blackpunk sneer piqued my interest slightly, and the infamous “Big sunglasses = cool band” Fenriz interview only served to spur that interest onward. Now, with the release of the pleasantly titled F.O.A.D., the time just seemed right to return to Darkthrone; and that killer cover art certainly didn't hurt their case, either.
It takes some serious fire and fortitude to craft something as blatantly backward-thinking as this; especially while managing to sound fresh-as-hell at the same time. F.O.A.D. is a crusty platter of semi-thrashy, punked-out heavy metal, executed with the aesthetics of black metal iconography. While it is an unabashed throwback, and has been tailor made for raising a pint (or nine) to, it can also be used as a case study as to why the recent “retro” phase is just a passing fad. Operative word being ‘could’, because even though Darkthrone has made legions of pretenders look downright silly with one fell swoop, there’s no broader agenda to be found here. They simply wanted to make a nasty, rollicking tribute to the music that pumps through their veins, without the slightest concern for pretext. And they’ve succeeded in that regard.
But what about the songs, mannnnnnnnnn? Wrapped up in a suitably ‘Throne-ish production (raspy, but not too brittle), F.O.A.D. is wickedly vital for a 13th album; they ride to success on attitude, not songcraft. Tracks like “Canadian Metal” and “Raised On Rock” are just as fun as one would expect them to be; this is a fuckin’ party album to the bone, soaked with piss…and beer that tastes like piss. But, frankly, despite this album’s snarky delivery, not every cut is packed with blackened fun. For comparisons sake, take I’s Between Two Worlds as an example. While a monstrous album 'as is', it would’ve been even more charming and timeless if it contained more rocking Motörheadaches a la “The Storm I Ride”. F.O.A.D., similarly, reins you in with bouncing, snarling anthems, but leaves the adrenalin perched on the cliff. Clunkers “Pervertor of the 7 Gates” and “Wisdom of the Dead” prove that attitude can only get you so far, ultimately rendering this album essential only to those who tithe to the Church of Real Metal.
But that’s kinda the point, because Darkthrone don’t give a flying fuck about anything else; and if you don’t think that’s admirable, you can, frankly, Fuck Off and Die. These old codgers have been kicking around for a long-ass time, so perfection isn’t a thought that should be entertained. What is entertaining, though, is that a band at this stage in their career can create something so vibrant as to leave the listener craving more. Until that next dose of filth floats our way, I’ll be blasting the shit out of F.O.A.D. recklessly.
Even though I was steadfastly Raised On Rock, Darkthrone prove that you’re never too old to go back to school.
posted on 10/2007 By:
By now, I’m sure that every metalhead with working knowledge of a computer and even the slightest inclination towards laughter has seen the so-called “101 Rules of Black Metal.” Pretty funny shit, though a few jibes hit a little close to home for some of the more grim-nekro-kvlt BMers out there (come on, you KNOW you don’t actually listen to that Ildjarn demo recording from 1993!). Remember Rule #94,“Own every Darkthrone release. Listen to exactly none of them.”? Well, I guess it’s safe to say that I, uh, am pretty fond of Darkthrone, and admittedly have a bit of a soft spot for the crotchety old bastards. Do I own every Darkthrone release? Save for a few uber-rare demos and bootlegs, hell yeah I do! And I listen to all of 'em on a damn near daily basis, so take those "clouded frost spires" of yours and shove it, boys.
Like so many others, I cut my teeth on Soulside Journey and A Blaze in the Northern Sky during my fledgling teenage forays into the realm of black metal. I forgave them for the lackluster efforts of the recent past, and rejoiced at their triumphantly pissed-off return with The Cult is Alive. Now it’s 2007, and the masters of ravishing grimness are back with a charmingly-titled new record (I feel bad for all the baby BMers who’ll have to convince Mommy that Fuck Off And Die is a perfectly reasonable addition to their Christmas lists) and a helluva bad attitude to go with it. So, what’s the new Darkthrone album like?
It fucking rocks!
That’s right, it rocks – it’s fun as hell to listen to, and doesn’t give a flying fuck about what you or anyone else has to say. F.O.A.D. is Darkthrone doing what they do best – whatever the fuck they want! Look, this isn’t Transilvanian Hunger. It’s no Blaze, it’s not even Hate Them, and it’s definitely not “Norsk Arisk Black Metal.” Darkthrone have (somehow) managed to regress even further past their ultra-primitive blackened roots and gone back to the very beginning, conjuring up an album that’s as much or even more rock’n’roll and gutter punk as it is black metal. They took the blackened punk rock of The Cult is Alive and ran with it; F.O.A.D. is even more stripped-down and irreverent, and owes more to Amebix and Motorhead than to any corpse-painted purists. As much flak as the band is sure to receive from the Kvlt Police, I’ve got to say, I’m digging this new direction. It’s killer to see such an established, iconic band actually going somewhere new with their music instead of just releasing the same album over and over; the world doesn’t need another Under the Funeral Moon, but it definitely needs a band like Darkthrone.
There’s more musical variety on this disc than on any of their other releases. They still throw in some good ol’ tremelo picking from time to time, but from the slow, doomy lurch of “The Church of Real Metal” to the Motorhead/Celtic Frost-worshipping, crusty sneer of “Raised on Rock" to the more traditionally fast’n’muffled “Splitkein Fever” and crawling necro sludge of “Banners of Old,” every song sounds unique (a tough thing to do if you’re, you know, Darkthrone). As far as vocals go, I’m a little sad to say that Nocturno Culto has ditched the throat-shredding raspy croak in favor of a more straight-forward, gravelly yelp, while Fenriz amuses himself by doing his best Lemmy impersonation throughout. As per usual, the bass is nonexistent, but by now, you’d better be used to it.
The lyrics are going to be one of the things that make or break this album for some people. Songs like “Canadian Metal,” “The Church of Real Metal,” and Raised on Rock” are utterly tongue in cheek, totally self-aware, sometimes nonsensical, and chock full of shout outs and references to other bands. It’s a bit strange to hear one of black metal’s icons yowling about Manilla Road, but hey…to each his own.
Bottom line – F.O.A.D. isn’t really a black metal album in the conventional sense, and compared to Darkthrone’s past works, it’s a departure and a half. That doesn’t make it bad, though. Nocturno Culto and Fenriz have spat out a rockin’, headbangable slab of punk/thrash/black’n’roll that may alienate older fans, but may very well be the spark that’s needed to keep them going.
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