MetalBite Review by Chris Pratl on 5/30/2019 7:53:54 PM
I suppose I'm in the minority of people that really covet the later-era Darkthrone - the more “black-n-roll” stuff, that seems to be as basic as can be, seemingly uninspired and pedestrian, yet tangible and entertaining at the same time. It's also deemed a sort of classless regression for most of the ardent, elitist fans, of which I am surely a minuscule part of in theory and spirit.
There are, of course, happy exceptions.
For me, this is the very essence of what metal music - good metal music - should encompass. Not everything has to or should be intricate and / or overly evocative. Sometimes 'basic' is just about as good as it should be. The latest opus from Darkthrone, Old Star, subsists on a steady diet of repetitive riffs, familiar vocal patterns and brief moments of familiarity by way of generously recycled guitar parts circa 1980-83. All in all, it's a nice look back at a distant past that was, for all intents and purposes, leaps and bounds over today's run-of-the-mill musical efforts of similar ilk. Fenriz has always had a severely transparent penchant for all things NWOBHM and “old school,” so this (un)natural progression from death metal, to Norwegian black metal, to the current sound is not all that surprising. Truth told, he seems to have been more out of his personal element during those Under a Funeral Moon, Transylvanian Hunger and Blaze in the Northern Sky years. While those albums were groundbreaking and even good, I never was too sold on the band's black metal sound back when I first heard the band through tape trading in 1991. I thoroughly enjoyed Soulside Journey for both its impetuousness and 'green' feel throughout, but once the traditional / black-n-roll began creeping its way into the music on Dark Thrones and Black Flags I felt more at home with the band. I was among the sparse minions that found the last album, Arctic Thunder, more illuminating than musically offensive, but I digress.
Old Star begins with a thundering riff in the opener, “I Muffle Your Inner Choir,” and from there it just keeps up the 'sing-song' pattern with slight variation mixed in for measure. I tend to personally gravitate towards music that holds me captive, and, more often than not, it's a solitary guitar riff that just holds me there, ala Burzum's trivial, yet enveloping “Lord of the Depths.” Nocturno Culto and Fenriz still manage to call upon some familiar blackened sounds, ala “Duke of Gloat,” which is about as close to the old days as they're going to get with tremolo sweeping and some very Norse-forest-like feeling within. That guitar tone Culto employs certainly lends itself to a caustic, nostalgic aura that seems to fit right in with the overall mood of the record; such familiarity always helps when a band ventures off into another field of play. It seems to lessen the proverbial blow to the more “hardcore” fans unable or unwilling to accept changes. That in place, a track like “The Key is Inside the Wall” just screams out for a nod back to the days of Hellhammer, Celtic Frost or early Venom, with much emphasis on Frost's "Morbid Tales" era. I'm in the class that longs for that sound from the “old days” that seems to be becoming a 'thing' again these days, although most of it seriously lacks authenticity and passion. These guys in Darkthrone have never lacked either in their work; love it or hate it, they can never be accused of being inauthentic.
If you've come here to find something overly intoxicating or thought-provoking in Old Star you're more than likely going to be disappointed, but if you're a longtime study of the band as I am, you'll most likely enjoy and appreciate the growth, albeit a slower, less ethereal shedding of skin. Sometimes things from the past need to be razed to start anew from the ground up, and it's often more necessary than you might think. Old Star submits, for your listening enjoyment, a courteous nod to the forefathers that built this stable of music years before and left it for future men and women to cultivate and care for in their own good time and stead.
It's solid and that's all it really needs to entice you, nothing more and nothing less.
Rating: 8.5 out of 10