Has there ever been a band that didn’t care what their fans and music critics thought of them like Darkthrone? Consistently marching to the beat of their own drummer they are chameleon-like and morph their style with each passing release. On their seventeenth album Arctic Thunder they once again metamorphosize their sound and deliver the unexpected.
Early in their career they were instrumental in forging the second wave of black metal with three of the genre’s most iconic releases. Since then they have incorporated punk, industrial and NWOBHM into their sounds. With 2006’s The Cult Is Alive they reinvented themselves and were reestablished as leaders in the scene.
2013’s The Underground Resistance stands as one of the best in their catalog and was a clear album of the year candidate. Morphing their punkish blackened metal with classic old school metal was an absolute perfect concoction.
Instead of building on that formula, Darkthrone once again throw a huge curveball with Arctic Thunder. Unlike their most previous releases, this time around Nocturno Culto is handling all of the vocal duties again. Fenriz is regulated to drumming and is still contributing to the songwriting.
The tempos are much slower as the riffs are incredibly meaty and thick. From the devastating moments of the opener “Tundra Leach,” one’s face is melted off at the sludge induced riffing and Culto’s inhumane vocals. Halfway through, one of Darkthrone’s most crushing riffs carries the song to a climactic ending and will have your head banging in no time.
“Boreal Fiends” alternates tremolo picking with dirge induced riffing. It’s a throwback track that utilizes Fenriz’s double kicks throughout the first half before unleashing into riffs not far removed from early Black Sabbath to stunning conclusion.
There is still tons of Celtic Frost worship present that has became the most prevalent dynamic to Darkthrone’s sound of late. “The Wyoming Distance,” “Throw Me Through The Marshes” and the title track are all seeped in Tom Warrior’s guitar style and spirit. “Burial Bliss” is the quickest track, but still not overly fast. The perfect execution of black metal chording plays for the first three minutes relentlessly until it breaks down into a crunchier tone.
Never one to record to a click track, there is a feeling of looseness in the playing which suits the material perfectly. It isn’t quite a throwback to their earlier albums, but there is an aggression and metallic edge that has been missing on their previous releases. Nowhere to be found are the punk influences that have dominated their recent offerings.
Another solid album, but not on the same level as the unpredictable The Underground Resistance. The NWOBHM influences are sorely missing from this release. Arctic Thunder is powerful and angry and is Darkthrone’s unique take on doom metal blended with To Mega Therion.
(Released October 14th, 2016 on Peaceville Records)