The Underground Resistance
Review by Chris Pratl on October 23, 2018.
This writer has been a Darkthrone fan since 1992, and I know most of you reading this know well the Darkthrone history of black metal-into-crusty-punk that left the fan base a camp divided over the last few years. So it's with casual hesitancy that I venture into The Underground Resistance. I bear in mind the black metal days are long over, and I suggest you faithful readers assign a like-mind to that as well. You may be very surprised.
Off the top, the ugly and raw speed-metal-meets-NWOBHM cloak that Fenriz is so wrapped in rears its very impressive theads, shadowing over the legions of dark minions and boldly claiming residence in the new era. The guitar tone in the opener “Dead Early” is thick, heavy, and undeniably potent as Nocturno Culto growls and bellows his sermon. I'm pleasantly surprised right off the bat, and I have a feeling this may only lead to better places. Upon entry into “Valkyrie” and hearing those soaring vocals that remind me of any chosen NWOBHM vocalist worth his salt, I'm convinced that the new Darkthrone era has not only been cemented into the earth but lays waste to the notion that the band's better days are long behind it. The main riff in “Valkyrie” is so heavy and memorable that I couldn't shake it until “Lesser Men” pops into my ears and I immediately picture a young and hungry Mercyful Fate in some Danish studio going for it on all cylinders, influencing a young Norse band (and a host of countless others) for years to come. As the song progresses, old farts like myself will be treated to a mixture of Fate and early Celtic Frost ala Morbid Tales with that deadly, albeit blueprint vocal of Tom G. Warrior barreling through the tempo. Hearing some high vocals neatly mixed into the fray without being overdone sets a new standard for Darkthrone's upgraded style. Being disciples of the old school of heavy metal, this album encompasses all of the finer elements of said era to a proverbial apex of near perfection.
The “leaked” track “Leave No Cross Unturned” definitely grew on me upon repeated listens, and it moves along like an Agent Steel speed metal trek ala Unstoppable Force, which really tends to burrow into your brain and take root. “Come War, the Entire Doom” is a more sludgy doom-inspired metal that balances between abrasiveness and accelerated solemnity. All through the record, the guitar tone takes immediate control of the reins and is akin to a sharp implement poking around in random order; it's just a simplistic and fluid sound that grabs you and, while void of flair and dramatics, simmers underfoot. Fenriz' drumming is really on the mark throughout as well, and it's clear he took special pains to grab that antiquated sound and make it viable for the current day. His occasional vocals are a pretty good effort as well; you'll know where he comes in and either dig them or dismiss them, but I'm betting on the latter.
There is a gaunt stylistic approach to the haphazard feel of the record; that is, the 'patterns' followed here don't necessarily subscribe to anything you might consider “clean” or “neat” by definition. It's primitive and unpolished to the trained ear, but while it might appear easy to bash the effort simply due to the Under a Funeral Moon contingent pushing and upset apple cart it's not a fair presumption. The Underground Resistance is a galloping jaunt through the past glories of some of the genre's more impressive bands and artists, which might assuage some of the oldsters in need of a nostalgic fix and impress the younger generation enough to open its collective mind a bit.
I am pleasantly surprised at how entertaining this record is throughout. Yes, it's not your father's Darkthrone, but the corpsepainted faces are thankfully gone to time and dust. NC and Fenriz have managed to tap into the recesses of Heavy Metal 101 and issue an homage of heavy, tongue-in-cheek subservience to the aged art of thrashy speed metal in the New Wave fashion. When I say this Darkthrone record has something for everyone, it's simply the truth.
Rating: 8 out of 10
(Originally written for www.metalpsalter.com)