Reviews Darkthrone Arctic Thunder

Darkthrone

Arctic Thunder

Darkthrone may have been around for nigh on thirty years, but it hasn’t stopped the Norwegian duo from consistently releasing music and constantly changing up their sound to keep them from living too much in the past. Beginning on a more death metal style, before moving on to black metal (and helping to create the whole second wave of black metal in the early 90s), then to black and roll and now to a fully rounded, blackened heavy metal style, Darkthrone have spent their time wisely and instead of sticking to a sound that made them, they’ve grown and cultivated a unique stance that propels them firmly into the modern era.

Arctic Thunder is their seventeenth full length and the vibrancy and soul is as apparent here as it was back with Soulside Journey (1991) or Transilvanian Hunger (1994). Nocturno Culto and Fenriz trade the cold landscapes of the past for a fiery take on heavy metal and in doing so, create a record that stands as a high point in their career – albeit one that hasn’t been had too many lowpoints when looked at as a whole.

“Tundra Leech” starts the record on doomy progressions of guitar that move with rhythmic force and settle over Nocturno Culto’s raspy, guttural voice. It’s interesting to note that for the first time in a while, it’s Culto only handling the vocals. On 2013s The Underground Resistance much was made of the two founders trading songs and lending their own style to different songs, but on Arctic Thunder vocals are left solely to Nocturno Culto and in doing so Darkthrone allow the darker side of the band to filter through. “Tundra Leech” soon moves to a faster pace yet keeps that guitar pinning the flow down before soaring above all with a solo that lights up the space.

Arctic Thunder is, on first glance, a straightforward record. Riffs are plenty and drums are heavy hitting and the tracks build to crescendos in all the right places. However, some moments are intriguing and give the record a different flavour amid more simple tones. “Boreal Fiends” hides a thoroughly 80s heavy metal in its guitar before allowing the homage to fully be realised in the sudden high notes that Culto throws out and again later in the echoing excitement of the solo. “Deep Lake Trespass” treads more melodic territory with an opening that contains a deliciously memorable riff that segues into faster movements and thrashier vibrations at times, before falling back into that hypnotic guitar and then the fuzzy death metal style of “The Wyoming Distance.”

Arctic Thunder is a much more immediate record than The Underground Resistance and in taking a simpler approach and giving Nocturno Culto, the vocal reins, Darkthrone have created an album that oozes cohesion and class. It doesn’t quite hit the heights of its predecessor, but the difference is so minimal as to be moot at this point. Darkthrone are a legendary band and even thirty years on, can make music that is refreshing, fun and exciting to listen to.

8.0 / 10Cheryl
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