Darkthrone – The Underground Resistance (Peaceville)

Darkthrone – The Underground Resistance (Peaceville)

Along with Mayhem and Burzum, Darkthrone created and defined second-wave black metal. But the band hasn’t really dealt in that style since giving birth to it. The last few Darkthrone albums — starting with 2007’s F.O.A.D. — have been mid-tempo, meat-and-potatoes riff-fests, with drummer Fenriz taking over more vocal duties (borrowing notably from King Diamond). The Underground Resistance continues down this path, but it also crests to an apex: The Underground Resistance is not so much retro-minded as it is elemental; it is a library of music crammed into six explosive songs. Fenriz’s vocals — especially when he reaches for the falsetto — appear to invite LOLs, but they’re no more ridiculous than any such vox from any trad-metal screamer, and after a few spins, the novelty is gone and all that remains is their immediacy and humanity. The Underground Resistance sometimes feels like a lost treasure, an obscurity from another era that has somehow turned up to be shared and discussed among metal nerds; it sometimes feels like the ur-metal album: an essential document from which the genre was born. Lots of recent bands — including the Fenriz-approved likes of Ghost B.C. and Christian Mistress — have adopted a retro-chic approach to writing and production, trafficking in sounds more appropriate for 1983 than 2013, but Darkthrone’s rich, resonant new album belongs distinctly to the moment, as much a statement on the here-and-now as a history lesson. –Michael
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