Darkthrone really doesn’t need an intro since they are legendary and if you think about black metal at all you’ll probably think of their releases between 1992 to 1994. “A Blaze in the Northern Sky”, “Under A Funeral Moon” and “Transilvanian Hunger” are often talked about when Darkthrone is brought up in conversation, since then they have released A LOT of full length albums but they have remained average and almost forgotten. With Arctic Thunder, Darkthrone captures the early 90’s black metal feel with raw production, riffs, riffs and more riffs. Blackened thrash riffs with some heavy/punk influences spawn quite often on Arctic Thunder and it’s quite fitting with the overall feeling on the album. If you’re wanting an authentic black metal album with traditional sounds and screams, Darkthrone’s Arctic Thunder should be what you pine for. Yet, the band definitely shows off that they are old school. Can their sound and style keep up with modern black metal releases?
Fenriz and Nocturno Culto return with Arctic Thunder, their 17th studio release, which is named after a thrash metal band based out of Oslo. This album is a follow up to their last release, The Underground Resistance, which is an album I actually enjoyed. One of their best albums in recent years and now I can add Arctic Thunder to that list of modern Darkthrone releases that are good. Darkthrone have ditched their corpsepaint and seemingly have slapped on their denim jackets (that may or may not have spikes installed on them) because some of these riffs on here are straight mean 80’s heavy metal guitar play. Mixing this heavy thrash sound with classic blackened melodies and darkened atmosphere really brings out the authenticity in Darkthrone’s traditional sound. They’re really giving us a classic sound, which is refreshing in an era where most big name black metal acts have crisp production and really punish us with overly fast drumming and high tempo guitars. Darkthrone really gets my head moving with simple power chords and dreary atmospheres.
Jumping straight into Arctic Thunder, “Tundra Leech” delivers us a simple but aggressive riff as Culto begins his blackened screams over the music. One thing you’ll notice right at the beginning is their style of black metal isn’t like most modern bands within the genre. Darkthrone posses a classic black metal style while utilizing heavy metal riffs to push their dark agenda. Honestly, it works well for Darkthrone, making Arctic Thunder a modern classic almost immediately. Using this to fuel their song writing, the style continues with the song “Burial Bliss”, as the guitars saw through and the drums keep a steady punch, all while Culto howls into the mic.
“Boreal Fiends” begins with a clean channel section before the riffs pour back in. Darkthrone revisits this riff again before soaring high over the mountains with the songs progression and song writing. Once the double bass patterns come into play, I really feel the guitar riff speak to me. It’s a good combination of drum tempo and guitar work. Then you get a nice “BOREAL FIEEENNDSSS” sung before the tempo slows way down and things take a turn for the sludge in a way. Before you know it, a cow bell and heavy metal riffs enter the fight and then the song fades very slowly as a solo takes place over the heavy riff. What an excellent song.
“Inbred Vermin” has a nice attack to it, featuring quick paced riffing and chuggy palm muted thrash moments. The closing moments of the track tend to end on more of the dreary side of black metal though and it’s so good. “Arctic Thunder”, the albums obvious title track, begins with some power chord riffing that’ll get any metal fiend headbanging. The tone of the song changes near the 1:55 mark, as things take a turn for the heroic with the galloping guitar and drum work. Darkthrone may have changed up their black metal image a bit, but they still know how to make some headbanging/toe tapping good shit. The song also fades out on the guitar solo….I am noticing a trend here.
“Throw Me Through The Marshes” has some gnarly smoke filled rock and roll riffing to start off the track and the riff repeats itself for nearly 2 minutes before the guitar’s riff tempo kicks up a notch for nearly 2 minutes, then falls back to the beginning riff for the remainder of the song. Definitely one of my least favorite songs on the album but not entirely bad. “Deep Lake Trespass” has some wicked good riffing in it and the back and forth with the drumming is key to this song being so good. Not to mention the song never seems to slow nor lose energy, I really like the song writing on this one. Sure it’s only a handful of riffs but it’s how they are placed and performed that makes the song damn good. Like finishing a puzzle that you worked so hard on. It comes together to paint a picture….this picture though makes me want to headbang.
The albums finale is the track “The Wyoming Distance”, which is the shortest track on the album clocking in at only 3:14 and it’s not the best track on the album. I find the track to be rather average and unfulfilling, but at least they end the album with guitars ringing out and drums all over the place, like when bands finish up their live set: “THANK YOU KANSAS CITY!!”
My final thought on Arctic Thunder is that this is a decent black metal album even though it probably has the least amount of black metal found within it. You’ll get more than enough heavy metal riffs, tempo changes within a single song, thrashy riffs and hell, even a moment of sludge for you. Darkthrone also recorded this one with intentions on just being raw and about the music. No need for a fine tooth comb to go over this, they are black metal after all, just record it and sell it!
Release Date: October 14th, 2016
Label: Peaceville Records
Favorite Tracks: “Boreal Fiends”, “Inbred Vermin” & “Deep Lake Trespass”
For Fans of: Bathory, Immortal & Mayhem