Review by Aaron on March 19, 2005.
Darkthrone is one of those bands that never really changes. That’s not negative criticism, whatsoever. There are very few bands that are able to maintain the same musical quality from album-to-album and not come out stale.
What Darkthrone does well is take what they have and direct it towards a previously uncharted vector of darkness and dirt. Sardonic Wrath is no exception to this. From the get-go, with the dark, “Order of the Ambient,” courtesy of the keyboardist from fellow Norwegians, Red Harvest, it drives the listener into levels of the abyss never before heard on a Darkthrone album. The assault continues with songs such as, “Information Wants to Be Syndicated,” “Straightening Sharks in Heaven” (gets my vote for best song title ever), “Man Tenker Sitt” and “Hate is the Law.” These all hark back to the glory that is A Blaze in the Northern Sky, while still combining tried and true Darkthrone-isms into an album that comes out fresh and new.
This album receives a high mark on production, whereas any other band would be roasted, simply because Darkthrone would lose their atmosphere with high production quality – it wouldn’t work. They know how to use low production quality as an instrument unto itself and it comes through in Sardonic Wrath, well.
Fenriz is getting nasty in his old age, his drumming technique has gotten farther away from actually drumming and gotten more into the “beating the shit out of the sonuvabitch” school of percussion. This works great in maintaining the level of primitivism that Darkthrone tends to maintain atmosphere-wise, while still not lapsing into shoddy performance. Nocturno Culto’s guitar play focuses on very dirty, old-school black metal, with definite tips-of-the-hat to punk and thrash. However, in no way does this detract from the black metal ethic they, themselves, have helped to create and strengthen. There are some that attest that Hate Them missed the mark, to them I say Sardonic Wrath hits it and then barrels forward. I pray to unholy gods that 2005 continues musically the way that this album has paved.
Categorical Rating Breakdown
Rating: 8.8 out of 10