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Music Review: Darkthrone – Dark Thrones and Black Flags

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The Darkthrone of today are a completely different band than when they started out and redefined the genre of black metal in the early '90s.

The strict doctrines of old have long since been left behind, but only out of a natural progression. Darkthrone sound like they do today very simply because their songwriting has evolved. They want to honor true old school music and pay homage to their influences, such as speed metal, “a little bit boring thrash”, as Fenriz would put it, and punk. The last album may have upset many black metal puritans that could not accept the difference and their penchant for humor, but F.O.A.D was a sublime metal album full of sloppy punk and "new wave of British heavy metal" influences.

Dark Thrones and Black Flags
is steeped in the same style and is just as good as its predecessor. Opener “The Winds They Called the Dungeon Shaker” is one of the best hardcore punk songs of the year and this comes from a black metal band. I will admit that the chorus took me by surprise the first time I heard the song because it’s very uncharacteristic for the band, but after another listen it seemed to fit the rest of the song like custard on apple pie. The same goes for “Hanging Out in Haiger” – definitely different but its fun old school vibe makes it one of the top cuts on the album. The use of cleaner vocals throughout will definitely divide opinions but bypass the cheesy title and what you get is a rough and dirty brew of punk and metal.

Second song "Death of All Oaths" is pure mid tempo thrash metal and its chugging and thick opening riff brings to mind legendary Canadian thrashers Slaughter.

A quick study in the booklet and you will notice that the duo each have five songs to their credit. Whether this split is intentional or not is irrelevant but the difference is still slightly tangible. The Fenriz-penned songs are prominent in their use of more melodic metal and/ or crust punk influences – "Hiking Metal Punks" is a typical one and its wonderfully guitar melody in the second half is something straight out of an 80's heavy metal album – whereas Nocturno Culto's contributions are coming from the more traditional Darkthrone background. Above mentioned "Death of All Oaths" is one and another example is "Norway in September" that evokes the slower moments of old Celtic Frost and Venom.

There is one thing that to me will always feel distinctive for Darkthrone, or at the very least distinguishing for Scandinavian death/black metal bands, no matter how much people complain about the change; and that is the way they write the guitar riffs.

Many bands from the north have a very specific guitar sound that makes them uneasy even when melodic. It is difficult to explain but they sound so utterly cold and frostbitten, which to me typifies bands from countries where cold weather signifies everything.

The accompanying booklet is, as was the case with the previous record, in a league of its own. If you still value the complete experience of reading the lyrics, liner notes, and studying the pictures then you will find plenty to enjoy here.

All you need to do now is get a copy of Dark Thrones and Black Flags and enjoy metal history filtered through the world of two record collecting Norwegian weirdos. A new album from these guys will always be more of a pleasure to listen to than most.

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