Sunday Old School: Black Metal History Month - Darkthrone
Band Photo: Darkthrone (?)
It’s February once again and MetalUnderground.com has decided to bring back Black Metal History Month, (see what we did there?). This month MetalUnderground and in particular Sunday Old School, will be looking at some of the biggest and most important bands in the history of black metal. If some of your favourite black metal bands don’t get featured this month, such as Norwegian titans Immortal or Emperor, chances are it’s because we’ve already covered them. Speaking of Norwegian black metal, it only seems right that we kick the month off by looking at just such a band, and who better to examine than Kolbotn’s own, Darkthrone?
As previously mentioned, the band formed in Kolbotn, a suburb of the Norwegian capital city, Oslo, in 1986 by drummer Gylve Nagell, along with guitarist Ivar Enger and bass player Dag Nilsen. They originally went under the moniker, Black Death and performed a more death metal orientated brand of music, before they changed their name to Darkthrone the next year and were joined by a second guitarist in 1988 named Dag Nilsen, who would leave the same year. Following the recruitment of Ted Skjellum, the group would release four demo tapes before landing a record deal with Peaceville Records. They were helped in their endeavour to record their debut album by members of Entombed and Nihilist, since Darkthrone had a very small recording budget. It was on this first album, "Soulside Journey" that traces of black metal began to show in their music. They then took this a step further, adorning corpse paint and adopting pseudonyms, much like Venom before them.
Their transition to black metal was completed with their second album, "A Blaze In The Northern Sky," which despite causing problems between Darkthrone and Peaceville and seeing Dag Nilsen depart soon afterwards, was eventually released in February 1992 and has since become one of the most acclaimed black metal albums of all time. A third album, "Under a Funeral Moon" was recorded merely four months after the release of "A Blaze In The Northern Sky" and saw the band completely discard their death metal roots in favour of what Nagell, now known as Fenriz, called, "100% pure black metal." Once again, the album would be soon as a major landmark for the black metal genre and was adored by fans. Enger departed soon afterwards however and ever since then, Darkthrone has consisted of Fenriz and Ted "Nocturno Culto" Skjellum.
Now a duo, their next album, "Transilvanian Hunger" was once again lauded by fans of black metal, but courted controversy by featuring the slogan "Norsk Arisk Black Metal," which translates as "Norwegian Aryan Black Metal" and for featuring lyrical contributions by Burzum mastermind, Varg Vikernes, who had been imprisoned for the murder of Mayhem guitarist Øystein "Euronymous" Aarseth only a few months prior to the records release. Despite these apparent right wing leanings, Darkthrone denied any such accusations on their next album, "Panzerfaust," with a statement which read, "Darkthrone is certainly not a Nazi band nor a political band, those of you who still might think so, you can lick Mother Mary's asshole in eternity." "Panzerfaust" continued the bands black metal style but also saw evidence of thrash metal influence, making some songs akin to early Celtic Frost material. Although the main contributor to the bands music, Fenriz would not write any lyrics for their next album, "Total Death," released in 1996, which saw Nocturno Culto write lyrics, as well as guest work from members of Emperor and Satyricon.
Darkthrones output ceased for a short while after the release of, "Total Death," with a three year gap separating "Total Death" from the next album, "Ravishing Grimness," which hit the shelves in 1999 and saw the group slow their tempo down noticeably while retaining their black metal edge, a trend which continued on their next record, "Plaguewielder," which many attributed to Nocturno Culto being the principle song writer of both albums. Never a band to follow conventions, the duo surprised fans yet again when electronic influences surfaced on their next two records, "Hate Them" and "Sardonic Wrath."
If fans thought the previous thrash and electronic traits were strange, they were in for a massive shock when Darkthrone released, "The Cult Is Alive" in 2006. Although still displaying a black metal sound, it was overshadowed by the influence of crust punk, a sound which has been embellished and strengthened on every subsequent album since, most notably on the albums "Dark Thrones and Black Flags" and their most recent output, "Circle The Wagons." Where Darkthrone goes from here remains to be seen, but this is precisely what has made them one of the most well known, and above all, respected bands in black metal, they’re unpredictable and they do what they want at unconventional times. Wherever this Norwegian pair which consists of a DJ and a school teacher decides to go with their music, it will no doubt continue on a brutal path.
Darkthrone - "A Blaze In The Northern Sky"
Darkthrone - "To Walk The Infernal Fields"
Darkthrone - "Transilvanian Hunger"
Darkthrone - "F.O.A.D."
Black Metal 101 with Fenriz
Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com for four years and has been a metal fan for ten years, going so far as to travel abroad for metal shows.
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