Thursday, February 21, 2013

Darkthrone - The Underground Resistance (2013)

Cover art adorned with a viking warrior, sword raised high and enemies entrenched in warfare screams a certain devotion to classic heavy metal. Cynics might accuse Darkthrone's latest album, The Underground Resistance, of being rehash or a trite attempt at capturing a decade long gone, but the final product is only proof of the two-piece's passion and their willingness to follow their current tastes. Fans angry about the direction of newer records will undoubtedly bitch and whine in protest of the band's latest effort but, for Darkthrone, heavy metal is here to stay and a spirited six-track frolic through a sub-genre ushered by Judas Priest, Venom, and others is nothing to scoff at.

Naturally, the band relishes their musical shift, too, because they continue to mix the pot filled with influences. King Diamond and Mercyful Fate are clearly the perpetrators here--despite what Fenriz might claim--and the album's closing two songs cement that thought in place with falsettos and deeply grunted vocals. "Come Warfare, the Entire Doom" feels forced and gruff sounding, but the strain Nocturno Culto pushes though the microphone somehow seems authentic, gritty, and done with vehemence. The longest number on the album, "Leave No Cross Unturned," mixes an operatic, tenor voice with low groaning and suggests a primitive metal epic, instead of something slathered in historic narrative. Like the rest of the record, the track is rudimentary at best, but it captures heavy metal's raw spirit and sums up Darkthrone's new direction in one fell swoop.

Fenriz and Nocturno Culto typically have the same mindset for the rest of the album, albeit with a few surprises that give a nod to Darkthrone's inspiration. "Valkyrie's" grandiose opening takes a page from Metallica's book; "Battery" and "Fade to Black" all too familiar with an acoustic intro that bursts into a churning mass of riffing. Lemmy's sporadic bass playing was unquestionably an influence here as well because "Dead Early's" frantic opening revives the classic Motörhead sound and explodes with a muscular pound from the percussion's snare/bass drum. "Lesser Man" spits furiously with speedy alternate picking, while "The Ones You Left Behind" takes a different route by being the most memorable track on the album. Mimicry hard at work, the two impersonate their influences--perhaps unintentionally--and ultimately fail to feel distinctly Darkthrone; a travesty for some but a win for others.

The Underground Resistance is a new chapter for the band, regardless, moving away from the crust punk they have fixated on for the last few years, but the music is neither original or particularly encouraging in terms of innovation. The basic heavy metal paradigm is certainly to blame here: at play for the umpteenth time in yet another application, the style is firmly tongue-in-cheek and occasionally tiresome. Despite this minor letdown, however, The Underground Resistance is excellent as a tribute and holds unparalleled replay value--despite the lingering thought that another musical act has likely done the same thing at one time or another.

Worth the money? Absolutely. Just expect Darkthrone to wear their influences proudly.