Band Photo: Ester Segarra
Darkthrone fans the world over expressed their excitement at the band’s announcement of Arctic Thunder, a new album to be released October 14th. According to Peaceville’s website, the album will feature 8 songs, recorded at the band’s old rehearsal unit which the band calls “The Bomb Shelter”. It’s also where the band recorded Land of Frost, A New Dimension, and Thulcandra, the pre-Soulside Journey demos from 1988-89.
But that’s the stuff of press releases and facts. Why not have some fun with a bit of speculation about what the album will sound like? After all, half the fun of being a metal fan pre-internet was wondering what an upcoming album had to offer us. So, let us agonize over every minute detail we can think of together!
From the album announcement: “Arctic Thunder retains a grim atmosphere throughout the album’s 8 tracks…”
That sure seems hint at something of a return to older, blacker pastures, but let’s remember a couple of things:
1) That could very well just be smart marketing. The word “grim” is an easy bell to ring, just to get the old school black metal-loving dogs within us salivating.
2) Fenriz has openly expressed a distaste for what he calls “symphonic black metal” riffs, describing them as being elaborate versions of simpler (and better) Bathory riffs when reflecting on his own work.
So, what does that line even mean? Let’s assume that “grim” isn’t just a word the label or PR folks used because they knew we’d all infer something from it. In that case I’d suggest that any form Darkthrone might return to would have a lot more in common with the band’s demo years or maybe A Blaze in the Northern Sky than it would Under a Funeral Moon or Transilvanian Hunger.
A Blaze in the Northern Sky is more of a transitional album than it’s normally given credit for, as there is still a lot of death metal woven throughout. Fenriz, on the audio commentary for that album, talks about some of the slower, death metal sections of the album, and is generally a lot more enthusiastic about that sort of material, along with the open Celtic Frost-ness of song’s like “In the Shadow of the Horns”. He also mentions wanting to avoid the “Darkthrone beat”, at least when he’s playing, preferring to stick with a Motörhead-style beat for faster sections over the last 10 years.
The band’s updated biography on the Peaceville website has this little note about the album:
“…Arctic Thunder is imbued with the vitality and spirit of the band’s adolescence augmented by the instincts and unflinching judgment of veterans; unfettered metal freedom untainted by trends.”
Ok, so obviously this is mostly credibility touting, but again the key reference relates again to the early years of the band. These little tidbits are all being (purposefully) coy about which segment of the band’s adolescent years they’re referring to. I have my own theory about this, which I’ll get into a moment, but first…
Nocturno Culto is the only vocalist on the album.
This one’s pretty big, because a big chunk of the vocals were handled by Fenriz on 2013’s The Underground Resistance. Fenriz had brought more of that lighthearted singing style to the last several albums, and really he’d only gotten better over time, to the point that he was downright enjoyable on The Underground Resistance, with his performances on “Valkyrie” and “Leave No Cross Unturned” being his best ever. In a facebook post from Fenriz back in November of last year, he talked about this decision coming from listening to Anguish’s Mountain album from 2014 on Dark Descent.
That same Facebook mentions that for his part, Fenriz’ contributions are slower heavy metal, like in a traditional doom metal sense. He mentions Candlemass’ Epicus Doomicus Metallicus, Sabbath’s Mob Rules, Dream Death’s Journey into Mystery, and Sacrilege’s Within the Prophecy (unless he meant a different Sacrilege) as specific influences. These would seem to still be relevant to the album even now, as the announcement mentions that the album was recorded over the winter.
So, what are we getting?
Based on the information we have to work with, it’s tough to get a concrete sense of what we have in store in two months’ time. Nocturno Culto’s contributions are said to be in line with what he’s offered lately, which would indicate more material in the vein of “Dead Early” and “Lesser Men”, which are absolute standouts from the last album. Meanwhile, the influences Fenriz listed would indicate that we’re in for something different altogether, which don’t have all that much to do with either the death or black metal segments of Darkthrone’s early years.
If anything I believe that this album being “…imbued with the vitality and spirit of the band’s adolescence…” probably has more to do with what their influences were in those years, rather than the band revisiting the one of the styles of their past. The good news is that Darkthrone’s most recent sound is something to be excited about anyway. There may be some among us hoping for a straightforward black metal album again, but the band they’ve become has a lot of value too. The Darkthrone of today is too damned good at what they’re doing to consider continuing that sound a disappointment.
What do you think Arctic Thunder will sound like? Give us you thoughts on Twitter over at @KwinnMetal
Arctic Thunder will be released October 14th on Peaceville Records.
Words by Daniel Jackson