Dark Thrones And Black Flags
posted on 11/2008 By:
Things seem to be going pretty well in the Darkthrone camp. Nocturno and family are tucked away in the middle of Nowhere, Norway doing cozy-cuddly family things, and Fenriz is living comfortably enough to toss the bulk of his disposable income towards Ringnes beer and shit-tons of rare metal, punk and rock records. Twenty years as one of Norway's most formidable extreme metal bands hasn't exactly buried Darkthrone neck-deep in kroner with VIP cards to the front of the line at the local Vinmonopolet (liquor store), but it has allowed for what appears to be a pretty comfortable lifestyle for the dynamic duo, and their recent musical output exhibits evidence of their contentment. That's right, the Darkthrone of today is a fair mile (or five) from their cross-crushing roots, and I have a feeling the fellers would now be more likely to sell their souls to Manilla Road (as evidenced on "Raised on Rock") than any horned chum from the fiery depths, but I'm actually right alongside 'em. I'm older and I've grown weary of being overly concerned about spooking uber-Christians with scythe blades shimmering on a moonlit nights. Mostly, I just wanna listen to crap-tons of metal and drunkenly yap about it with like-minded individuals, and that's the notion you gotta be comfortable with if you still want to be onboard the Darkthrone train of today.
It's true that Dark Thrones and Black Flags essentially picks up where F.O.A.D. left off, but this record on the whole is catchier and more severe compared to the previous effort. Not severe in that "let's charge through a cemetery with robes and panda-paint again" kinda way, but more in a sense that DT & BF tones down the sassy punk attitude just a tad in favor of injecting some additional "shadow" to the Darkthrone formula established since '06. We still find evidence of the band's newfound lightheartedness on tunes such as "Hanging out in Haiger" (featuring the year's snazziest opening drum beat, hands down) and "Hiking Metal Punks" (further solidifying one of my life ambitions to sit in front of a campfire and spin yarns with Fenriz about the importance of Vulcano and Whiplash while eating peanut butter out of a jar with a booming schnapps buzz going), and there's also plenty of plastic-metal-scenester bashing still afoot with the excellent "The Winds They Called the Dungeon Shaker" and raucous closer, "Witch Ghetto", but Dark Thrones and Black Flags definitely ups the ante in terms of a more straight-forward black metal and traditional metal flare, possibly because songwriting duties are split right down the middle this time around.
It's essentially the Nocturno coined tunes that are responsible for the welcomed pinch of darkness on this affair. "Death of All Oaths (Oath Minus)" not only charges with an elder Kreator thrash riff at its onset, but it also features a beautiful Soulside Journey-styled breakdown at the 2:15 mark. "Grizzly Trade," "Launchpad to Nothingness" and "Norway in September" (one of the album's true highlights) all roll out slower, nearly doomish measures, with the latter actually coming across rather creepily because of the added ghostly/wobbly effect on Nocturno's lead guitar. Actually, the only Nocturno tune that's not touched with grimness is "Blacksmith of the North (Keep that Ancient Fire)": a song with riffs definitely rooted in the trademark Darkthrone sound, but it's delivered in a really upbeat manner that's catchy as hell and a bit more indicative of what I'd expect his cohort to write. This isn't to say the Fenriz penned tunes should be taken less seriously, however; the man's heavy metaller than most, but he's also absolutely unafraid to brazenly display his punk influences on his contributions, and that means a fair portion of Dark Thrones and Black Flags is quicker, snottier and just generally more "fuck you" -- an attitude definitely carried over from 2007's F.O.A.D..
The bottom line is really pretty simple: if you're a Darkthrone fan and you liked last year's record, you'll still find plenty to hold onto with Dark Thrones and Black Flags -- probably even a little more, if you're anything like me. This record is further evidence of a band that's matured (or immatured) well over its two decades of existence, and it's solid proof that you can indeed bend the hell out of the rules and still maintain a trademark sound. Sure, it's a long way from Under A Funeral Moon (one of the greatest black metal records on the bloody planet, if not thee greatest), but it's still undoubtedly Darkthrone, and that's key. Honestly, I don't think I'd change a thing.
Wait...no, if I could actually change just one tiny thing as a long, long-time fan of the band: while I'd certainly say I'm warming up to the lower-register vocals used on the last two records, I'd love to hear future albums re-introduce Nocturno Culto's supremely gravel-gargled rasp. I happen to believe the man is the best black metal vocalist of our time, and unless it's just become too hard to do over the years, I'd love to hear those blood spattering vox again, even if it's just for a song or two per recording. It's certainly not a deal breaker, however, and it certainly won't keep me from recommending this record to any fan of the band.
BREAK THE CHAINS!!
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