Darkthrone - Under A Funeral Moon
Peaceville Records
Black Metal
8 songs (40:41)
Release year: 1993
Darkthrone, Peaceville Records
Reviewed by Goat

Darkthrone. The name sums it up: Black Metal legend, unrivalled. Yes, Mayhem had the history, Emperor the grandeur, and Enslaved the vision, but there are few who you could seriously contemplate as being rivals in the sheer Black Metal department. Although currently causing as much debate as ever due to the Punked-up drive of The Cult Is Alive and FOAD, there are few souls brave enough to argue that prior to around 1995 Darkthrone was surpassed by another band. Read ‘em and weep: A Blaze In The Northern Sky, Under A Funeral Moon, Transilvanian Hunger, the classic three Satanic assaults bookended by the tech-Death blast of Soulside Journey and the Celtic Frost worship of Panzerfaust. All are completely vital albums for any Metalhead who wants to call his collection complete.

It’s shameful that whilst A Blaze… and Transilvanian Hunger especially get the kvlt salutes from the corpsepainted hordes, other Darkthrone classics are left to rot in obscurity. Perhaps that’s the way that they’d like it, but genius deserves a little pat on the back from time to time, and if anything can be called ‘genius’ in these harsh times when Britney Spears outsells Joni Mitchell, it is an album like Under A Funeral Moon: a defiant, two-fingered salute to music as an industry, as relevant now as the day it was spawned back in 1993.

Sandwiched between the Black/Death riffage of A Blaze… and the chilling hypnotic intensity of …Hunger, Under A Funeral Moon isn’t really the missing link between the two albums. Opening salvo Natassja In Eternal Sleep kicks off sounding more like the later album, the wave upon wave of distorted riffing and constant hi-hat riding being pure Transilvanian Hunger, although it’s more melancholic - Nocturno Culto’s final scream of ‘I’ll get these goddamned angels druuuuuuunk!’ is spine-chilling in its intensity. Also especially worthy are the miserably depressed and alcoholic lyrics, dealing with the loss of the true Satanic witch Natassja, burnt at the stake by those darn Christians; throughout the album the lyrics are damn near faultless. What makes this album superior in many ways to the next, however, is the fact that the little variations in songs that made its predecessor a classic are retained. The breakdown two minutes into Summer Of The Diabolical Holocaust, followed by a solo from then-guitarist Zephyrous stops it from getting repetitive. Although Transilvanian Hunger is without doubt a masterpiece, it can soon get rather boring if you’re not completely immersed in the atmosphere. Under A Funeral Moon never suffers this problem.

It’s fair to say that this album doesn’t have a weak track, from the especially unsettling vibe of The Dance Of Eternal Shadows to the fast and almost catchy riffing of Unholy Black Metal, which is very basic with only a few riffs in the whole song, but there are a couple of solos to keep you listening. Of course, if you’re expecting a great deal of variety in Darkthrone’s sound then you really haven’t ‘got’ what the band is all about. Newcomers may even find it hard to tell one Darkthrone album from another, but the differences are clear if you give each album time to breathe its dark heresy into your soul. Musical simplicity touches the soul easier than complexity does, after all, and there is something deeply spiritual about early Darkthrone.

What this album tends to get the majority of complaints about is the production. Even for Darkthrone this is pretty low-fi, very deep and bassy, and the best way of listening to it is with the volume turned up high, the rawness of the riffs splattered over the dry, thin drumming like rotten flesh over bone. The likes of To Walk The Infernal Fields are much enhanced when you have the sound pummelling your eardrums, and whilst duty compels to warn you of the possible damage that listening to music at too high a volume can do to your ears, Under A Funeral Moon is very enhanced by volume, the ‘live’ sound of the recording coming across thrillingly.

The title track is the clear highlight, an even more violent and compelling song than Unholy Black Metal. With more tempo changes than other tracks, Fenriz’s drumming skill is more obvious here as well. The ignorant tend to lambaste the band for their apparent lack of skill, as evidenced by the garage production and seemingly repetitive themes, but then the ignorant have clearly never listened to the Jazz-influenced technicalities of Soulside Journey. Darkthrone is, in essence, master musicians hiding behind a minimalist approach to create atmospheric darkness of the highest order, to give music back its lost soul.

Crossing The Triangle Of Flames, the album closer, takes a ever so slightly different approach, with more variation in Fenriz’s drumming (with some rather odd patterns) and the sense that the track is building up to a grand finale. The strange sound effects towards the end of the song certainly are chillingly effective, sounding like some distorted chime, and fitting in excellently with Fenriz’s drumming at that point.

This is the kind of album where everyone will find different personal favourites, but as a whole it’s as worthy of interest as the albums before and after. The best way to listen to early Darkthrone is chronologically, but if you haven’t wrapped your ears around this yet you’re definitely missing out. This was the knockout punch to A Blaze In The Northern Sky’s haymaker, the moment people realised that Darkthrone was serious about the path it had chosen. From the artwork to the lyrics, Under A Funeral Moon is a piece of hellish art that well deserves its place amongst the Classics.

Killing Songs :
Goat quoted CLASSIC
Other albums by Darkthrone that we have reviewed:
Darkthrone - Old Star reviewed by Goat and quoted 80 / 100
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 - Plaguewielder reviewed by Goat and quoted 80 / 100
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