​Resistance to progress: Darkthrone’s "Arctic Thunder"

Resistance to progress: Darkthrone’s "Arctic Thunder"

It’s 2016 outside, but the Norwegian black metal band Darkthrone seems stuck in the last century. Formed in 1987, the duo has released the album after album almost every year, leaving behind the legacy of the 16 LPs, not counting the EPs and compilations. Excessive abundance is a bad thing, but the conscious stagnation in which there is no growth, development, and progress is much more dangerous.

The band's 17th LP "Arctic Thunder" is perceived as a protest against modern metal and a heavy tribute to the music of the past. Even the album’s title, chosen by the drummer Fenriz, refers to the eponymous group from the 80s.

Keeping very old-school sound, Darkthrone doesn’t play classic black metal but heavy metal with a great deal of thrash and an admixture of black metal. The music on the new release has lost all "modern" elements of later Darkthrone: crust and speed metal features disappeared, but the straightforwardness and simplicity of songwriting remained, as well as the slowness and clumsiness of melodies, which constant midtempo rhythms more swayed than pumps. The monotonous harsh growling of Nocturno Culto, who performs all vocal parts on "Arctic Thunder", intended to emphasize the raw and primitive atmosphere of the record, that he successfully managed, however, the LP can not boast a variety of compositions. The guitar parts also lack originality: the riffs can not be described as "killing" or "heavy", they have old school sound like if they were taken from unpublished Motörhead’s demo.

Tracklist:

  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

But all downsides in the sight of others can become advantages: primitive and old school sound is like music to some fans’ ears, also, someone may like a raw production which sounds like a garage record, and the band’s fans will be definitely into all of those things. Darkthrone is known to have a dedicated fanbase that will buy their new album, no matter how it was appreciated.

While Vektor has been reforming the whole thrash metal and Deathspell Omega has recorded a series of great black metal releases, Darkthrone year after year continue to produce the same album, which material we have already listened to a hundred times. It’s morally and technically obsolete record, but if "Arctic Thunder" had come out ten years earlier, it would have seemed to be pretty decent, but not a breakthrough work. After dozens of identical quality releases, it’s not enough to call the new album "not bad, but not a breakthrough" — the band runs in place and makes the music of the past, and it can not be ignored.

Darkthrone's musicians create music for themselves, no doubt, enjoying it and being proud of it. It's really cool, when the musicians are engaged in creative work sincerely and with maximum fidelity, but after so many good results and ideas in the past, everyone is waiting for the quintessence of all the best that Darkthrone have, but instead they get "Arctic Thunder" which was made from all the ordinary and familiar.

Should we encourage the band for the commitment to their views, ignoring the trends, and having overused sound and familiar average quality of the material? You already know the answer to this question.

Reviewed by Alexander Tverdokhleb
Translated from Russian by Anastezia