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Darkthrone – “Under a Funeral Moon” – [Peaceville Records]


Classic 1993 release from one of the definitive Norwegian Black Metal bands, often imitated but never equalled. Yes, it’s true that Darkthrone were trend hoppers, beginning as a Death Metal project before switching over to the frigid style of their friends in Burzum, Mayhem and Immortal– and yes, they (and their friends) owed many of their tricks to 80s trailblazers like Master’s Hammer, Root, Sodom, Sarcofago, Celtic Frost and (especially) Bathory– but it is arguable that no other single Black Metal album of the 90s has been as influential as ‘Under A Funeral Moon.’ Although it wasn’t Darkthrone’s first foray into Black Metal (it was their second) and isn’t their best album (that distinction, in my opinion, belongs to 1994′s ‘Transilvanian Hunger’), it is here that the final template for the genre was laid out, and with production just good enough not to turn off the less open-minded listeners of the day. Darkthrone’s lugubrious, plodding sound, like that of their contemporaries, was the wintry apotheosis of 80s Thrash (did I mention Bathory and Celtic Frost?) subdued under a strong dose of Medieval ambience borrowed from the freezing woods of their dreary homeland. Unlike many of the recordings cited as classics of the infamous Norwegian scene, however, this one has serious teeth, thanks in part to the rich, substantial guitar tone and in part to deft musicianship. Drummer and band leader ‘Fenriz’ (who also wrote the majority of the material) has a distinctive, hard-hitting style (perhaps owing a bit to Scandinavian D-beat groups like Crude SS and Asocial, though I doubt he’d have admitted as much at the time), giving the songs a sedated, feverish heaviness even when he’s playing a lot of notes. Bassist ‘Nocturno Culto’ plays mostly slow and/or monotonous parts while emitting some of the most inhuman vocals in metal history. Guitarist ‘Zephyrous’ left the band and the Black Metal scene after this recording, leaving the duo who remain today (they once falsely claimed he’d simply wandered into the forest and never returned). His work is underrated: Darkthrone has never sounded as chaotic and dangerous since his departure. In revisiting this album, I realized for the first time how thrashy it gets– t.s 4+6 were clearly an inspiration to projects like Aura Noir. Most bands weaned on this recording, however, looked to the gloomier, more Mayhem-inspired t.s 1, 2+7 for their tips. A personal favorite is t.5, an atmospheric midtempo epic that makes my spine tingle every time I hear it. The one and only lyrical preoccupation throughout is, of course, Satan. “With my art I am the fist in the face of God,” and may the churches burn once more.

  • Reviewed by Lord Gravestench on December 9, 2013 at 7:41 pm
  • Filed as A Library,CD
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