Sunday, 13 January 2013


No-one in their right mind doubts the authenticity of Fenriz and Nocturno Culto. Fewer and fewer are those who still feel offended about their detachment from a black metal scene that, more often than not, sees its adepts formatting themselves around a series of clichés. Nothing new under the sun: whilst the majority chooses to follow the hottest trend, few will congenitally go against them. So you see, in my eyes Darkthrone are a huge part of black metal history also for stepping back at the right time (or the worst possible time, as the music industry sharks would disdainfully argue) to reclaim the roots of its second wave: old school heavy metal, punk and their bastard son, thrash. Deciding to put your heart and guts back where the true underground spirit used to thrive, the late 70s and early/mid 80s, might be something hard to grasp for a young black metaller who started to buy his CDs in the 90s, but you see, it’s bit like rediscovering the old traditions in order to reconnect to a more meaningful dimension: does that sound familiar?…
Being passionate about music inevitably makes you feel regretful about how the most genuine “movements” always end up being dragged in muck when popularity pushes them out of their original context. Punk; Thrash; Black metal, their bastard son. They all started as small but tremendously powerful reactions against something; that’s until punk became synonym of fashion accessories; until thrash became a tired parody of itself; until black metal, which came into being to reclaim the lost rawness and authenticity in metal, eventually lost its “fuck you” power to become, from a demonizing threat, Norway’s biggest export with halibut and fuels (apparently armaments too). Government sponsoring potential church-burners and (alleged or real) psychos on the loose indicates an enlightened choice, one that only the civilized north can make (the equivalent of Holland’s liberal drug policies), creating an environment where angry youngsters should no longer feel angry… A positive, peaceful approach to deal with “problematic youngsters” is kind of preferable to violently stamping all over them indiscriminately (what Thatcher did with punks in the 80s), but still remains a perfectly good method to slowly snuff authentic, healthy rebellion. Today it is more important than ever to understand the importance to keep the underground alive and thriving.

Enter Gylve Nagell (profession: rockstar POSTMAN and DJ) & Ted Skjellum (profession: rockstar  TEACHER), class 1971 and 1972 respectively, and their old and multiform creature Darkthrone.
Enter their 16th album unambiguously named THE UNDERGROUND RESISTANCE, on the legendary independent British label Peaceville.

Circle the Wagons left some people (myself included) rather tepid, so rejoice: The Underground Resistance is as brilliant as it is its energizing title! A couple of crucial elements ensure an improvement I frankly did not envisage. But let’s begin the tale…
The first track “Dead Early” bursts in with a fucking glorious riff that not only encapsulates dark METAL but denotes a far stronger focus on the songwriting and a slightly cleaner production that makes all the difference. Evocative and goddamn powerful stuff! All sorts of references burst into my mind, then the vox comes in and my heart skips a beat: clear and powerful through the mix like never before, it’s like Nocturno Culto resuscitated Rob “The Baron” Miller of Amebix from the early 80s… I’m in love! The bass pounds heavily and I plunge into the unique mood that the English crust punk/proto-doom legends mastered before anyone else: the dark groove of the verse is immense, pure 1985 Arise! with stronger metal rooting… The best opening track I have heard in a loooong time.
The way Nocturno Culto and Fenriz split and alternate tracks is cool, as variety is always assured and it is like the album had two openers. What surprise will the lovable straight-speaking drummer have in store? The title says it all:  acoustic chords introduce “Valkirye”, an unashamedly epic jewel of vintage proportions which storms in like a marauding horde of testosterone-fuelled, hairy men looting your mind. A slow paced Bathory mood is juxtaposed to sped-up heavy metal alongside catchy-as-fuck vocals that make me grin like a fool. The contrast from the brooding darkness enjoyed before is immense but at the same time perfectly fitting. One thing is clear by now: if the following 4 tracks are just as  consistent and exciting we have a winner.
The loud, booming bass returns on “Lesser Men”, a groovier, fatter affair showcasing piercing guitar solos, the best of which fades right to the end. Apparently Nocturno Culto has delved into more personal kind of lyrics, a first for him: who might these “lesser men” be? No time to wonder as “The Ones you Left Behind” introduces itself as the slightly-drunken, tongue-in-cheek affair that we have come to expect from Fenriz. Czral-style pub singing vs. reckless high-pitch evolutions à la John Gallagher (Raven) keep you engaged and, again, make you wonder whom he is taking a dig at this time around... The start of “Come Warfare, the Entire Doom” brings back the gloomy crust-doom of the enormously influential (and yet again disbanded) Amebix (for those who do not know their story, it is important to note that they were heavily influenced by Motörhead and Black Sabbath as well as Crass, so it all fits to perfection across the venerable tables of metal history). It could just as well be Hellhammer partying with Motörhead, as the track becomes hotter, faster, thicker, worshipping right at dark metal’s sacred relic, but always bearing in mind that it is fucking rock ‘n’ roll… The album ends with a 13: 49 minute-long epic cavalcade, “Leave no Cross Unturned”, a rollercoaster between menacing and venomous heavy metal and classic fast-paced mid-80s thrash, which includes memorable bending notes on the guitar and great zombie-like choruses.
The album leaves satisfied and in need of repetitive binges (which regularly happened): it is full of vitality and this is the best homage that our heroes can make to the tradition of 80s metal, ensuring that people keep going back to bands like Dark Angel, Raven, Destruction or Sabbat (UK). Fenriz has publicly complimented his good friend Nocturno Culto for his best vocal performance to date, and that is certainly true: the immediate consequence is a great enhancement of the overall enjoyment and impact of this new work. The incredible energy and immediacy is actually tangible, jumping at you with such dynamism, fun and passion that you could just close your eyes and easily imagine Darkthrone on stage: honestly, to die for!!! Here we are no longer listening to a vintage, muffled sounding vinyl or tape, but to a groovy, sweaty live performance through a decent P.A.! While the punk influences will remain an inevitable historical ingredient of 80’s metal, this album reaffirms its more genuine, primitive (working class!) incarnation, and what a gripping, energizing and self-liberating experience it is to enjoy at full blast…

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