Release DetailsLABEL Peaceville
RELEASED ON 2/26/2013
Fenriz and Nocturno Culto have had their fun, and now they mean fucking business.
The Underground Resistance
Modern Darkthrone is really unlike anything else going on in metal today. Not the music exactly – the sources and content of that are relatively easy to deduce – but as an idea, it’s something quite different. The idea that two legends of the business would go backward in time, adapt their earliest influences into a what-is-old-is-new-again type of hybrid, and actually kick ass at it, is not all that common. By turning their raw, Second Wave black metal inside out, they unleashed the punk within. In doing so, they exposed the connection between the styles that was always there. (Go listen to Drawing Down the Moon and try to make an opposing argument.) But there was far more than punk on these records. The proto black metal of Celtic Frost and Bathory was re-embraced in a way it had not been since Panzerfaust, the speed of Lemmy was all over the place, and bit by bit, the holy sounds of NWOBHM entered the picture.
It is Darkthrone’s obsession with NWOBHM, along with the 80s disciples of the style, that really takes over on The Underground Resistance. The results are far more than just another fun veteran band album, but one of the better heavy metal albums of recent memory.
To anyone who really paid attention to Circle the Wagons, the shifts on The Underground Resistance should be of little surprise. The previous album hinted at the heavier, more serious tone that is present here, but the level to which Darkthrone has taken their new approach is staggering. The Underground Resistance not only makes the previous few albums seem silly on a content level (even if said silliness was half of the fun), it eclipses the quality as well. This is, without a doubt, one serious fucking heavy metal record, and one that deserves the ears of even those fans who never gave Under a Funeral Moon a second of attention. Fenriz and Nocturno Culto have had their fun, and now they mean fucking business.
That cutthroat mentality is immediately apparent by how much heavier opener “Dead Early” feels than anything from the previous three albums. There is an edge to this stuff that permeates everything from the rapid fire passages to the Frostian gallops (the riff vaults hath been opened), and a next-level execution that Darkthrone has really only achieved on their greatest black metal records. When the doomy, emotive beginning of “Valkyrie” shifts into the speedy, early-Maidenesque glories of the song’s chorus, the shock of any stylistic shifts wear off and the involuntary rock spasms take over. Whether the album is being heavy and malevolent or brazen and spirited, it’s fairly difficult to resist. The small touches, from a band not necessarily known for them, are what solidify the irresistible factor. A perfect production (100% clear with 0% sheen), key bass flairs, way-more-than-just-fucking-solid drumming from Fenriz, and unpretentiously layered vocals all help to make Darkthrone sound more like a full live unit than just about every band with more members who actually do play live. Even Fenriz’ singing is a plus, not so much for any virtuosity, but for the untrained, Quorthonish charm that it adds.
Where the albums of recent years had a notable amount of material that, while not filler, felt lesser than the beastly songs, there isn’t one ounce of that on The Underground Resistance; the hits just keep coming. “Lesser Men” is a machine-gun riffer that ups the heft and ends with well-conceived solo section that seems to emerge from the abyss. “The Ones You Left Behind” begins with blackened Motörhead before unleashing another infectious, unforgettable chorus, and comes complete with a bridge that could have been in a Slough Feg track and a whole barrage of jerk-your-neck-sideways hits during the verses. (Know that thing Bruce Dickinson does when Iron Maiden has a huge splash in a song? THAT.) “Come Warfare, the Entire Doom” adds a bit of complexity (and length), shifting between imposing doom and a forward drive that might be the result of Discharge going prog. And of course… special attention has to be given to “Leave No Cross Unturned,” which at nearly 14 minutes is easily the longest song of the band’s career. Two opinions have already been greatly explored on the shortened version of this song, and even if the full version doesn’t necessarily add any new themes or elements, it just feels complete. There is just so much sheer energy present that the full extent of the song is necessary to contain it, and that says nothing of the skin-shredding chorus, bend-it action in the bridge, and the slow, brooding hate that permeates the middle sections. Sure, it’s almost 14 minutes long, but it isn’t necessarily epic in the traditional sense of the term or all too complex. Rather, it’s just 14 minutes of getting unmercifully rocked by a band who built their legend on not rocking.
And that’s the central point of it all. What The Underground Resistance teaches us, more than Transylvanian Hunger, Hate Them, or F.O.A.D., is that the Darkthrone name is about more than any one style or movement. It is about greatness, and the secret might be hidden in the album title. Sure, you could take “The Underground Resistance” at the face value of music in the underground resisting the pressure from external sources, but part of me thinks it is something else, that Darkthrone is resisting pressure from within the underground to do what is expected of them, and instead choose to do whatever the fuck they feel like, all the time. Even those who dislike the direction would be solid pricks to begrudge the band that freedom. After all, this isn’t some commercial ploy or descent into mediocrity, but a veteran unit still at the top of its game. We should praise this mentality, because Darkthrone is far better off for it, and as a result so is metal as a whole. No, The Underground Resistance won’t usher in a groundbreaking new era, but it sure as shit will further solidify the legacy of one of heavy metal’s greatest duos.
Bow before the thunder.
Circle The Wagons
Dark Thrones And Black Flags
The Cult Is Alive