"some music was meant to stay underground..."

70000 Tons of Metal - The World's Biggest Heavy Metal Cruise

Darkthrone - "Circle The Wagons" (CD)

Darkthrone - "Circle The Wagons" CD cover image

"Circle The Wagons" track listing:

1. Those Treasures Will Never Befall You
2. Running for Borders
3. I am the Graves of the 80s
4. Stylized Corpse
5. Circle the Wagons
6. Black Mountain Totem
7. I am the Working Class
8. Eyes Burst at Dawn
9. Bränn Inte Slottet

Reviewed by on December 10, 2010

"With Darkthrone’s black metal roots, early thrash ideals, and raw punk aesthetic, the band has created a career defining statement that is simply a huge 'fuck you' to the entire metal world."

With the massive amount of bands in today’s scene doing various versions of “throwback metal,” the importance and significance of these bands and their releases diminishes as each year goes by. While for many people “throwback metal” may now be seen as another flash-in-the-pan trend, every so often an album comes along that truly sends us back to the glory days of the metal old-school. The latest example of such an album comes in the form of Darkthrone’s latest, and fourteenth studio album overall, “Circle the Wagons.” The album is an absolutely raw and honest record that bleeds old-school metal nostalgia. With Darkthrone’s black metal roots, early thrash ideals, and raw punk aesthetic, the band has created a career defining statement that is simply a huge “fuck you” to the entire metal world.

For a few years now, starting with 2004’s “The Cult Is Alive,” Darkthrone has been experimenting with a more punk version of black metal. While “The Cult Is Alive,” the following “F.O.A.D,” and “Dark Thrones and Black Flags” were all good records, they still lacked that extra special something that truly took them over the top into classic, must-own metal territory. “Circle the Wagons” on the other hand is a definitive masterpiece of old-school metal released in a day and age where most metal bands are more concerned with their image than its music.

Darkthrone makes it a mission to point out this current metal flaw with “I Am the Graves of the 80’s.” The chorus very openly proclaims; “I am the graves of the 80s, I am the risen dead, destroy their modern metal and bang your fucking head.” This music isn’t meant for the kids wearing As I Lay Dying shirts while hanging out at the mall. This is for people who want to know what it felt like to grow up during metal’s prime years.

The music itself on “Circle the Wagons” is nothing you haven’t already heard from many other bands. The music is very simple and straight to the point, which is really what makes it so special. Essentially, the band isn’t trying to be anything that it’s not. The members of Darkthrone are writing music that they want to play and music they want to hear. The biggest statement of this comes within the title track. Not only is it by far one of the most punk-inspired songs the band has ever written, but it also features something almost any Darkthone fan of old would have never expected: clean singing. It may have a bit of a medieval feel to it, but there is undoubtedly a clean singing presence within this song from both drummer Fenriz and mainman Nocturno Culto. It may sound extremely out of place for those used to the “Transilvanian Hunger” era, but yet it works so well and comes across as if Darkthrone was always meant to sound this way.

If only there were more veteran bands out there who were willing to take the risks of trying something completely new than what they are used to. The beauty of metal is that something new could easily be something old, as long as the proper amount of faith is put into the song writing. Of course not faith in the biblical sense, but in the fact that there needs to be the confidence to pull off something a fan-base would never expect. Darkthrone has not only made such a statement with “Circle the Wagons,” but it has created a timeless metal record that openly challenges every aspect of today’s deteriorating metal scene. “Circle the Wagons” will surely stand the test of time and could be placed right beside any of metal's iconic albums.

Highs: A modern-day classic metal record from two guys not afraid to speak their minds.

Lows: A few vocal issues, but very minor ones that are easy to forget.

Bottom line: A modern day classic metal record that openly challenges every aspect of today’s deteriorating metal scene.

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)