Released by: Peaceville Records
Genre: Black metal
Release date: Out now!!!
Nocturno Culto (Ted Skjellum) – lead guitar, bass guitar, vocals, lyrics (1988 – present)
Fenriz (Gylve Fenris Nagell) – drums, guitar, bass guitar, keyboards, vocals, lyrics (1986 – present)
1. Tundra Leach
2. Burial Bliss
3. Boreal Fiends
4. Inbred Vermin
5. Arctic Thunder
6. Throw Me Through the Marshes
7. Deep Lake Tresspass
8. The Wyoming Distance
Darkthrone is a Norwegian heavy metal band, formed in 1986 as a death metal band under the name Black Death. In 1991, the band embraced a black metal style influenced by Bathory and Celtic Frost and became one of the leading bands in the Norwegian black metal scene. Their first three black metal albums “A Blaze in the Northern Sky”, “Under a Funeral Moon” and “Transilvanian Hunger” (sometimes dubbed the “Unholy Trinity”) are considered the peak of the band’s career and to be among the most influential albums in the genre. For most of this time, Darkthrone has been a duo of Nocturno Culto and Fenriz, who have sought to remain outside the music mainstream. Since 2006, their work has strayed from the traditional black metal style and incorporated more elements of traditional heavy metal, speed metal and punk rock, being likened to Motörhead.
Which brings us to 2016, Darkthrone has released their 17th album Arctic Thunder, a follow-up to 2013’s critically acclaimed “The Underground Resistance”. One thing for sure is the band never lets down. Each album sounds different to the one prior. They keep consistent by not keeping consistent. Long time members Fenriz, who is an absolute behemoth behind the kit, and Nocturno Culto who delivers the demonic vocals we have grown to love, don’t hold back sharing their own style of rock and death roll. One thing that stands out from this record is the strong Celtic Frost vibe, something of which the black metal titans wear proudly on their sleeves of influences. To keep things kvlt, the record is self-produced by the band in the old rehearsal unit “The Bomb Shelter”, which was used in 1988 for “A New Dimension” and other demos.
From track opener “Tundra Leech” with its vicious riff that hits harder than a sixteen wheeler, picking up the pace with next track “Burial Bliss” showing a lethal blend of punk and black metal, to stand out track “Boreal Fiends” with its evil riff that is sure to open the gates of hell. The doomy riff will turn some heads, and some heads are gonna roll as the great man Halford once said. The last minute of the song has an infectious riff that will make you want to hit repeat. “Inbred Vermin” is a track that brings the late, great Lemmy and Motorhead to mind with its speed and bass frenzy on display. Title track “Arctic Thunder” is another highlight with its stomping riff that will want you to get out your guitar and start jamming. The guitar solo at the end is over too soon as it is heard in the fade-out. “Deep Lake Tresspass” takes the notch up a few levels, bringing up the tempo with some riff wizardry and Fenriz‘s ungodly drum technique. As there are only eight tracks on this record, there are definitely no fillers in the 39 minutes playtime of this killer album. But all good things must come to an end, and instead of leaving you with a long song that can drag on which a lot of bands choose to do, Darkthrone leave you with the deep “The Wyoming Distance.”
Despite the “serious and primitive” nature of the album, humor is seemingly not lost on the duo. In classic Hellhammer fashion Fenriz counts off a tempo, opening riff follows, full band kicks in and bpm falls completely. There are hot rocking riffs abound throughout the album as well, the highlight being about two thirds the way through previously mentioned “Boreal Fiends”, complete with cowbell and a booty swinging cadence that would make Tom Warrior blush. Whether the motive here was humor or not we may never know, but the sentiment is always appreciated.
Darkthrone remains one of the few bands for whom purity of expression is everything. Uninterested in modern trends, Fenriz and Nocturno Culto continue to focus on the music that moves them and if it should happen to find an audience, then so be it. A more concise album than “The Underground Resistance” (there is no epic such as “Leave No Cross Unturned”), “Arctic Thunder” is eight tracks of heavy fucking metal delivered in Darkthrone’s own inimitable style and while the band may have spawned countless followers, they still manage to sound quite unlike anyone else. Raw and an uncompromising source of old school black metal, Darkthrone‘s music are undoubtedly not for everyone, but there’s a vitality present in “Arctic Thunder” that marks it out as a highlight in Darkthrone‘s catalog.
It must be reiterated that nothing here feels forced. It’s simply Darkthrone being Darkthrone, constantly changing yet always consistent in their motives.
Written by: Danielle Bates