Darkthrone – Eternal Hails……
Release Date: 25/06/2021
Running Time: 41:23
Review by Dark Juan
I find myself seated alone at Dark Juan Terrace. Mrs. Dark Juan is away looking after her petits-enfants. The Smellhounds are quiescent and, rather more remarkably, not gassing the place out with their sulphurous and necrotic farts, and I was wondering what I should do with myself considering self-abuse ain’t my style (he sez ‘ere), I am awash with Yorkshire tea already and I can’t be arsed to build a model today. I am sat here basically not doing anything and frankly it’s annoying me, because I am in a right funny mood. I can’t even repair the Mighty Gothikpanzer’s wipers because the replacement part hasn’t arrived yet. None of which matters to you out there reading this and expecting a record review.
Speaking of record reviews, I had a fantastically interesting discussion with someone on that there internet about whether or not I should restrict myself to reviewing underground releases, or whether I should pick up on the occasional big band, and give them the dubious benefit of my wisdom as well – based on the premise that bigger bands don’t need the coverage from upstart internet based magazines like ever-metal.com, but the underground bands most certainly do. I’m personally of the opinion that I should review whatever the fuck I want (and do just that because I am the most contrary BASTARD) but allow myself the luxury, occasionally, of having a bash at the big boys too. Therefore, I am a champion of the underground but I also get the chance to tell you about some of the bands I have loved for decades – hence my total and utter adoration and hero worship of Graham Bonnet… This led into a larger discussion about whether festivals should be relying on super established acts to draw people in, and the seeming dichotomy between matters fiscal and matters of integrity to the scene but I’m not boring you with that.
Anyway – Bands I have loved for decades. Darkthrone are one of them. Ever since “A Blaze In The Northern Sky”, in fact. I love Darkthrone for their sheer disregard for the mainstream and their utter commitment to their own musical vision, and I will now tell you all about “Eternal Hails……”, their latest platter.
Opening with the utterly melancholy ‘His Masters Voice’ it’s obvious that Fenriz and Nocturno Culto have been listening to a LOT of Candlemass over the past few years. Employing a slow tempo not unlike Paradise Lost’s early work, the production initially sits at odds with the music, being as it is of the usual black metal lo-fi-recorded-in-a-hyperbaric-chamber-with-cans-attached-to-strings aesthetic, but with rather more doom than black metal in the music. The sheer quality of the musicianship and songwriting soon makes you forget about this, though. However, the classic BM production sound appears to be a studio contrivance this time, as apparently the usual studio method (Necrohell II – 8-track mobile recording equipment in an old bomb shelter) wasn’t available anymore because said recording equipment died a suitably Viking death, leading the boys to go to Chaka Khan Studios in Oslo instead. Just how do I quantify this music for you? Blackened doom metal? Doomy black metal? Who knows? All I know is that it is rather fucking good, actually. The pace picks up a bit on ‘Wake Of The Awakened’ and it is a pleasingly morose mid-paced stomper, but still rather doomier than you’d expect, being all slowed down black metal riffs and Nocturno Culto’s trademark serrated growl never sounding better. ‘Voyage To A Northpole Adrift’ is by far the song that has the most to thank black metal for, again being a fairly classic BM song slowed down to doom speeds with little flourishes of Celtic Frost and Trouble thrown in there just to confound and beguile the listener. ‘Lost Arcane City Of Uppakra’ throws a decidedly punk opening riff into the mix as well as a speedier middle section before breaking down into gently tapped cymbals and simple guitar and bass with an equally simple, yet ethereal keyboard. Then everything gels together and the guitars crash back in like a shield wedge of Viking reavers hitting your front line of swordsmen and this carries on to close off the album in perfect fashion. Darkthrone have not lost the skill of making less be considerably more in terms of atmosphere and feeling, even if that atmosphere and feeling is dying of exposure on a freezing cold hillside a mile from a dark and threatening forest, made indistinct through nebulous mist and snow that cuts your skin like tiny blades.
It’s not a cheerful record, this. It’s unremittingly grim. It’s endless grey steppes and howling winds and barely glimpsed horrors in the shadowy dark. I’ll be honest, I’ve enjoyed the fuck out of it but it hasn’t done anything for my already sour mood! Saying that though, it managed to conjure up visions in my head while I was listening to it with my eyes closed and cans on, and not a lot of music is able to do that with such ease. In fact, the more I listen to “Eternal Hails” the more I sink into it and the more it charms and seduces me. Especially because there isn’t a song under 7 minutes in length on the album, which gives Darkthrone more time to conjure up these musical wastelands. Possibly a classic in the making, I reckon, and absolutely uniquely Darkthrone.
The Patented Dark Juan Blood Splat Rating System (Det patenterte Dark Juan blodsprutsystemet for våre norske venner) awards Darkthrone 10/10 for a sprawling exploration of just where black metal can go if you dial down the pseudo-Satanic lunacy and allow other influences to creep in and wrap themselves around you, whilst maintaining that martial edge that the likes of Dimmu Borgir have forgotten about in their quest to make their music as huge as possible. Simply a brilliant record from two masters of their twisted, arcane and unique craft.
‘His Masters Voice’ (Lyric Video)
01. His Masters Voice
02. Hate Cloak
03. Wake Of The Awakened
04. Voyage To A North Pole Adrift
05. Lost Arcane City of Uppakra
LINE-UP: (As if you need fucking telling unless you’re totally ignorant!)
Fenriz – Drums, guitars, bass, keyboards, vocals, lyrics
Nocturno Culto – Vocals, guitars, bass, producer, lyrics
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