Darkthrone - Plaguewielder
Moonfog Productions
Black Metal
6 songs (42:50)
Release year: 2001
Darkthrone, Moonfog Productions
Reviewed by Goat
Archive review

As much as any Black Metalhead has his or her favourite ‘throne album, few dare to claim fanship of the band’s acknowledged fallow period in the late nineties and early noughties. Everyone (of course) loves the early, undisputed classics, and everyone seems to have accepted the Punkier, old-school revivalist direction of late, but what about inbetween? This site is one of the few I’ve read which is even polite about them, most seeming to treat Hate Them, Sardonic Wrath and so on as beneath contempt, when they’re actually rather good albums. I don’t think Darkthrone have ever made a knowingly bad album, personally – they may not have been at their best with the dull Total Death and Ravishing Grimness, for example, but those albums still contain rewards for the band’s fans. Plaguewielder is a fine case in point, nowhere near the icy classics of yore, but being a lot better than history and Metalhead convention care to remember, many castigating the band for having a coloured cover alone!

Fenriz and Nocturno Culto have always been outsiders of a sort, content to carry on doing their thing whilst the rest of the world keeps turning, and whilst this may never result in an Avant-Garde masterpiece, it means they’ve gotten pretty damn good at what they do. And pretty damn good sums Plaguewielder up well, although you wouldn’t think that from the opening of the album, Weakling Avenger starting with gasping vocals and a strained voice speaking some nonsense about life killing death. Fortunately, a rather kickass riff starts moments later, almost epic melodies building into a hypnotic, malevolent storm that holds your attention for the full seven-minutes-plus running time. It’s immediately notably that Darkthrone went for a less teeth-grindingly raw production here than is usual for them, the riffing remarkably clear and even the drums having a multi-dimensional presence that rings out with enough strength to penetrate all but the most hardened headbangers’ ears.

As ever, the vocal performance is especially strong, Nocturno sounding especially maddened as his dry growls and shrieks hurdle down a sonic wind tunnel at you. Raining Murder’s added stormy effects add much to the atmosphere as you wither beneath a torrent of scorn, and the vocal ‘yeeurgh!’s show that the Celtic Frostian spirit is alive and well in the band’s hearts, as if the second half of the song after the breakdown and its twisted Thrash pounding wasn’t proof enough. Sin Origin is even more proof of this, and will break the neck of any Celtic Frost fan yearning for something a little more akin to A Blaze In The Northern Sky from the Norsk duo – it’s also a damn good song in its own right, the lingering outro providing more atmospheric chill than many a blastbeat could ever manage.

There aren’t really any weak songs present, as each track makes an effort to be different from the last, and all succeed in their purpose – the relatively slow swing that opens Command soon turns to compelling speed, and the war samples and guest vocal spot from Apollyon add up to an experience which is nothing less than jaw-dropping. The twisted Thrash of I, Voidhanger verges on the catchy, but it’s nine-minute finale Wreak which really deserves the plaudits, being one of my favourite ever Darkthrone songs. Starting with the sort of groovy riff which suggested that Khold were on the band’s radar at the time, it shoots into whiplash speed less than a minute later, breaking down in fine fashion and refashioning Darkthrone before your very eyes back into the kind of kickass headbanging machine that they used to be. It’s unashamedly awesome, and precisely the direction that I once hoped the band would take – as good as this Blackened Punk stuff can be, it’s too hard to take seriously with the vocals’ silliness. I love The Cult Is Alive, but I don’t think Darkthrone will ever improve on it, and until that magical day when the duo return to the Celtic Frost worship which brought A Blaze In The Northern Sky to such stunning life, we ‘throneheads will just have to sit back and eat up whatever the band give us. Don’t forget gems like this, however.

Killing Songs :
Weakling Avenger, Raining Murder, Sin Origin, Command, Wreak
Goat quoted 80 / 100
Other albums by Darkthrone that we have reviewed:
Darkthrone - Arctic Thunder reviewed by Goat and quoted 70 / 100
Darkthrone - The Underground Resistance reviewed by Goat and quoted 75 / 100
Darkthrone - The Cult Is Alive reviewed by Goat and quoted 84 / 100
Darkthrone - Circle the Wagons reviewed by Kyle and quoted 82 / 100
Darkthrone - Ravishing Grimness reviewed by James and quoted 80 / 100
To see all 18 reviews click here
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There are 4 replies to this review. Last one on Tue May 25, 2010 5:22 am
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