Saturday, October 13, 2007

Darkthrone "F.O.A.D." - Album Review

Darkthrone, F.O.A.D. (Peaceville 2007)

*unedited review - edited version will be published on soon!

By now, I’m sure that every metalhead with working knowledge of a computer and even the slightest inclination towards laughter has seen the so-called “101 Rules of Black Metal.” Pretty funny shit, though a few jibes hit a little close to home for some of the more grim-nekro-kvlt BMers out there (come on, you KNOW you don’t actually listen to that Ildjarn demo recording from 1993!). Remember Rule #94,“Own every Darkthrone release. Listen to exactly none of them.”? Well, I guess it’s safe to say that I, uh, am pretty fond of Darkthrone, and admittedly have a bit of a soft spot for the crotchety old bastards. Do I own every Darkthrone release? Save for a few uber-rare demos and bootlegs, hell yeah I do! Do I listen to every one of them on a more or less daily basis? You bet yer ass I do! So take your “clouded frost spire” and shove it.

Like so many others, I cut my teeth on Soulside Journey and A Blaze in the Northern Sky during my fledgling teenage forays into the realm of black metal. A few years later, I gleefully searched out their shittily-awesome demo recordings and scorned the legions of copycats who I deemed barely worthy to lick Fenriz’s scuffed black boots. I forgave them for the lackluster efforts of the recent past, and rejoiced at their triumphantly pissed-off return with The Cult is Alive. Now it’s 2007, and the masters of ravishing grimness are back with a charmingly-titled new record (I feel bad for all the baby BMers who’ll have to convince Mommy that Fuck Off And Die is a perfectly reasonable addition to their Christmas lists) and a helluva bad attitude to go with it. So, what’s the new Darkthrone album like?

It fucking rocks!

That’s right, it rocks – it’s fun as hell to listen to, and doesn’t give a flying fuck about what you or anyone else has to say. F.O.A.D. is Darkthrone doing what they do best – whatever the fuck they want! Look, this isn’t Transilvanian Hunger. It’s no Blaze, it’s not even Plaguewielder, and it’s definitely not “Norsk Arisk Black Metal.” Darkthrone have (somehow) managed to regress even further past their ultra-primitive blackened roots and gone back to the very beginning, conjuring up an album that’s as much or even more rock’n’roll and gutter punk as it is black metal. They took the blackened punk rock of The Cult is Alive and ran with it; F.O.AD. is even more stripped-down and irreverent, and owes more to Amebix and Motorhead than to any corpse-painted purists. As much flak as the band is sure to receive from the Kvlt Police, I’ve got to say, I’m digging this new direction. It’s killer to see such an established, iconic band actually going somewhere new with their music instead of just releasing the same album over and over; the world doesn’t need another “Under the Funeral Moon,” but it definitely needs a band like Darkthrone.

There’s more musical variety on this disc than on any of their other releases. They still throw in some good ol’ tremelo picking from time to time, but from the slow, doomy lurch of “The Church of Real Metal” to the Motorhead/Celtic Frost-worshipping, crusty sneer of “Raised on Rock to the more traditionally fast’n’muffled “Splitkein Fever” and crawling necro sludge of “Banners of Old,” every song sounds unique (a tough thing to do if you’re, you know, Darkthrone). As far as vocals go, I’m a little sad to say that Nocturno Culto has ditched the throat-shredding raspy croak in favor of a more straight-forward, gravelly yelp, while Fenriz amuses himself by doing his best Lemmy impersonation throughout. As per usual, the bass is nonexistent, but by now, you’d better be used to it.

The lyrics are going to be one of the things that make or break this album for some people. Songs like “Canadian Metal,” “The Church of Real Metal,” and Raised on Rock” are utterly tongue in cheek, totally self-aware, sometimes nonsensical, and chock full of shout outs and references to other bands. It’s a bit strange to hear one of black metal’s icons yowling about Manilla Road, but hey…to each his own.

Bottom line – F.O.A.D. isn’t really a black metal album in the conventional sense, and compared to Darkthrone’s past works, it’s a departure and a half. That doesn’t make it bad, though. Nocturno Culto and Fenriz have spat out a rockin’, headbangable slab of punk/thrash/black’n’roll that may alienate older fans, but may very well be the spark that’s needed to keep them going. Give it a listen and see what you think; you owe ‘em that much.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Being a relatively new convert to Black Metal, Darkthrone's Hate Them and Sardonic Wrath made a big impression on me, as did their earlier classics.

But their most recent direction, of celebrating the Metal instead of the Black, disappoints me. I don't mind the humor (e.g., last album's line, "you copy my style, and call yourself a man"). And my lack of Metal upbringing probably makes it difficult for me to connect with their championing of Manila Road. But they've left behind the enigmatic poetry than graced their intentionally primitive roar that made them special.

"Raised on Rock"? Where's the darkness?