Things seem to be going pretty well in the Darkthrone camp. Nocturno and family are tucked away in the middle of Nowhere, Norway doing cozy-cuddly family things, and Fenriz is living comfortably enough to toss the bulk of his disposable income towards Ringnes beer and shit-tons of rare metal, punk and rock records.
Twenty years as one of Norway’s most formidable extreme metal bands hasn’t exactly buried Darkthrone neck-deep in kroner, but it has allowed for what appears to be a pretty comfortable lifestyle for the dynamic duo, and their recent musical output exhibits ample evidence of their contentment. That’s right, the Darkthrone of today seems upbeat and more likely to sell their souls to Manilla Road (as evidenced on “Raised on Rock”) than any horned chum from the fiery depths.
Dark Thrones and Black Flags essentially picks up where F.O.A.D. left off, but this record is catchier and more severe compared to the previous effort. Not severe in an “upending gravestones” kind of way, but more in a sense that DT & BF manages to tone down the sassy punk attitude a hair in favor of re-injecting some darkness into the formula.
We still find evidence of the band’s newfound lightheartedness on tunes such as “Hanging out in Haiger” (featuring the year’s snazziest opening drum beat) and “Hiking Metal Punks” (further solidifying a life ambition to sit by a campfire and yap with Fenriz about the importance of Vulcano and Whiplash while eating peanut butter out of a jar with a booming schnapps buzz), and there’s also plenty of plastic-scenester bashing still afoot with the excellent “The Winds They Called the Dungeon Shaker” and “Witch Ghetto,” but thanks to the Nocturno side of the coin, Dark Thrones and Black Flags ups the ante in terms of more straight-forward black and traditional metal. “Death of All Oaths (Oath Minus)” not only charges with an elder Kreator thrash riff at its onset, it also features a beautiful Soulside Journey-styled breakdown around the 2:15 mark. And “Grizzly Trade,” “Launchpad to Nothingness” and “Norway in September” (one of the album’s absolute highlights) all roll out slower, doomier measures, with the latter coming across rather creepily because of the added ghostly/wobbly effect on Nocturno’s lead guitar. The only Nocturno tune that’s not touched with grimness is “Blacksmith of the North (Keep that Ancient Fire),” a song with riffs clearly rooted in the trademark Darkthrone sound, but delivered in a surprisingly upbeat manner that’s catchy as hell.
This isn’t to say the Fenriz penned tunes should be taken less seriously, however –– the man is heavy metaller than most, but he’s absolutely unafraid to brazenly over-display his punk influences throughout his contributions, and that means a fair portion of Dark Thrones and Black Flags is quicker, snottier and still carries the general “fuck you” attitude F.O.A.D. flaunted.
The bottom line is really pretty simple: if you’re a Darkthrone fan and liked last year’s record, you’ll still find plenty to grab hold of with Dark Thrones and Black Flags, maybe even more. The record is further evidence that you can bend the hell out of the rules and still maintain a trademark sound, too. Sure, it’s a long way from Under A Funeral Moon, but it’s still undoubtedly Darkthrone, and that’s one of the keys to life’s overall happiness.
BREAK THE CHAINS!!