Darkthrone - Arctic Thunder
Peaceville Records
Black Metal, Heavy Metal
8 songs (39:25)
Release year: 2016
Darkthrone, Peaceville Records
Reviewed by Goat
Major event

Once you’d have been mad to express surprise that legendary Norwegian duo Darkthrone were playing black metal, but since their sudden shift to heavy/speed/punk on The Cult is Alive (still something of an underrated gem) and F.O.A.D (which I’m still less keen on) the band have been content to do whatever the hell they wanted. And that’s led us to some pretty strange places, 2013’s The Underground Resistance particularly being the sound of a band that just wanted to have a good time but wasn’t particularly bothered about making sure that their music particularly gelled. Arctic Thunder, then, is notable not just for bringing back the black metal in a big way, but also in that it’s an album that feels like an album rather than Darkthrone making a wanking gesture and just doing, like, whatever. From the cover art, a rejection of the various sepia or B&W drawings from the past few albums to the sort of night-time woodland camping scene that you’d see on some new post-Cascadian band, to the album name and song titles, this is Darkthrone getting in touch with their roots to a certain extent. There are still hints of punk and there’s still a great deal of NWOBHM influence all over, but there’s also a great deal of black metal, and it’s all cohesive. (Well, nearly all.)

The only real negative to all this is that Arctic Thunder isn’t a very exciting album. Songs are decent but not especially memorable, the band’s performance is good but not outstanding. We’ve gone back to the days of the late 90s/early 00s where Darkthrone released competent but not very interesting albums, to the point where if you praised them too much you were some sort of poser, and owning all of the band’s albums were a cause for ridicule rather than celebration. Arctic Thunder does a lot right; mostly having Nocturno Culto take back over the vocals so we get none of those insane Fenriz warbles and writing a lot of excellent riffs. Opener Tundra Leech launches with some classic Celtic Frostian grooves and soon kicks it up a gear with a faster tempo and riffs that seem straight from the band’s dark past – in particular, Nocturno pulls out a solo that’s chillingly close to something from A Blaze in the Northern Sky. The following Burial Bliss is the closest thing to pure galloping, hypnotic black metal that we’ve had since Sardonic Wrath; and with that sort of opening duo, this might still be the band’s best album in years...

Aside from the killer Inbred Vermin, from then on the album can’t quite regain those heights. Said Inbred Vermin’s galloping blackened rumble has a vein of genuine anger pumping to keep it fuelled, and the doomy outro works well for it. The groovy title track’s NWBHM-esque riffing is more than good, but aside from moments of ravishingly grim darkness Throw Me Through the Marshes and the tracks following it are just ok. Worst (well, least good) is Boreal Fiends, which throws together everything from classic Sabbathian doom to upbeat heavy metal to hard rocking riffs with what sounds suspiciously like cowbell! It’s all rather incoherent, and worryingly undisciplined, even if it does end on a rather killer melodic solo from Nocturno. I’d struggle to call it actually bad, however, like all of the songs present; Darkthrone have made a solid but unexciting album that’s possibly the start of a career renaissance based on something other than a middle finger to their fans. Then again, knowing Darkthrone this might be the start of their infamous cowbell trilogy… As long as it’s as solid as this, however, that won’t be a problem.

Killing Songs :
Tundra Leech, Burial Bliss, Inbred Vermin, Arctic Thunder
Goat quoted 70 / 100
Other albums by Darkthrone that we have reviewed:
Darkthrone - The Underground Resistance reviewed by Goat and quoted 75 / 100
Darkthrone - The Cult Is Alive reviewed by Goat and quoted 84 / 100
Darkthrone - Plaguewielder reviewed by Goat and quoted 80 / 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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