Darkthrone – It Beckons Us All Review

[Cover artwork by Zbigniew Bielak]

Earlier this week, I traveled far and wide—about 25 minutes—to see the legendary Judas Priest, live in concert. 

They sounded incredible. 

Release date: April 26, 2024. Label: Peaceville Records
It’s hard to fathom that after doing the damn thing for five decades, Rob Halford, specifically, is still performing at such a high level. Nonetheless, if those were my final moments defending the faith, I’m grateful I was able to pay homage to one of the greats one last time. With that said, I’m a solid supporter of paying tribute or basking in the nostalgia of yesteryear. I understand not falling into nostalgia traps or living in the past for long periods, but every once in a blue moon, it’s a friendly reminder of where you’ve been and what you’ve heard—for me, at least. Also, nothing beats high-fiving your pals at the end of the night after screaming the lyrics to “Painkiller” and “Living After Midnight,” right?

Rock Midnight GIF - Rock Midnight Judas - Discover & Share GIFs

This all leads me to my next topic of discussion: this new Darkthrone album, It Beckons Us All. Per sources—AKA a video from Fenriz posted to the Darkthrone social media pages—founders and longstanding members, Fenriz and his brother-in-arms Nocturno Culto shook hands for the first time in more than 30 years after they finished recording the new LP. 

A high five would’ve been cooler, but I digress. 

Seemingly, they were so proud of the new album that they congratulated each other on a job well done. That was enough to pique my interest. From primitive black metal to crustpunk to doom to traditional heavy metal, Darkthrone has always done the respective genres justice. So, before I dive into this, let it be known that I’m not naïve. I know this release will not be for everyone, especially the diehards of the unholy trinity of albums from the early ’90s or those who have drifted away from their more recent works. But if you’re a fan of the ’80s or various forms of heavy music, you’ll—at the very least—appreciate the new record. 

Before I REALLLLYYYYY dive in, in March, Peaceville Records released the debut Coffin Storm record, Arcana Rising—a great album and unapologetic love letter to ’80s heavy metal. Coincidentally, it featured none other thanTOM G. WARRIOR Reflects On CELTIC FROST's Final Show & The Passing Of MARTIN ERIC AIN Darkthrone’s Fenriz on vocals. Less than a month later, he’s back with another record in the same vein. While there are apparent differences sonically, both records exuberated a yearning for an old-school sound, which isn’t too unfamiliar for the Norwegian legends. That rings true immediately with the intro track “Howling Primitive Colonies,” filled with a trad heavy metal main riff and the Celtic Frost-inspired moments you’ve become familiar with from the band over the last few releases. Of course, a large portion of that is found in Nocturno Culto’s Tom G. Warrior-esque vocals, which they lean into again for this album—they’re by no means trying to hide it, nor should they—but it fits the tone and atmosphere of the last few releases and this one quite well. And any Tom G. Warrior worship is acceptable to me.

If you checked out the Coffin Storm record, you’ll notice a familiar voice on “Eon 3,” adding an Agent Steel vibe to the song. On the opening tracks and throughout the album—this isn’t to say Darkthrone hasn’t continuously operated in this fashion, much like the Celtic Frosts and Hellhammers before them—the sound relies on the musical soul rather than any technicalities. Like John Cyriis on those Agent Steel records, Fenriz can cut through the melodies like a red-hot claymore through restaurant table butter. Granted, it’s not as speed metal-y as something like Unstoppable Force—quite the opposite—but it still evokes a comparable catchiness. And that’s one of the most vital attributes of the album. While it’s not as thrilling as some might hope for from the duo, the trve spectacle is the ability to conjure up the sounds of their youth without coming across as pretentious or even lazy. It’s also a reminder that things don’t always have to be groundbreaking or, to use an overused phrase, reinvent the wheel. If it’s good, it’s good. Even through the band’s various eras, they’ve remained consistent in terms of putting out quality tunes. That’s a feat in and of itself. 

Upon the album’s announcement, the band released the single, “Black Dawn Affiliation,” sparked by some slower, early-era Kreator riffs. There are also some synths on the track that round it out quite nicely as the song crescendos. Immediately following that section is my favorite riff from the album. There are also some Pentagram vibes—like that Coffin Storm record—on songs like “And in That Moment I Knew the Answer.” The instrumental is a spectacular dance macabre between the drums and guitars. As an avid fan of instrumental breaks, I found the significance of this one to be different than most of the others I’ve heard this year. In no way did it feel like a placeholder, much like the instrumentals from the early Metallica records held a special place in their holistic nature.

Genuinely, it feels like Nocturno Culto and Fenriz were on a creative roll while writing and recording the record—live, as they tend to do—that allows the record to flow seamlessly. There’s almost a warmth to it production-wise, too, rather than the frigidness of Astral Fortress. If I had to narrow down the closest relative of It Beckons Us All, I suppose I’d land on Arctic Thunder (ironic album title to compare a warmly produced record to, I know), and that’s a good thing.

A random but fun fact: “The Birdpeople of Nordland” is lyrically inspired by an actual bird. Here’s what Fenriz had to say: 

It’s about the eider bird and Nordland. Many years ago, I saw a Norwegian documentary about the symbiotic relationship the coast people of Nordland had with the bird. They watched over the nests and, in return, could pick the eider for pillows, clothing, warmth, etc. So, that is what the lyrics are about. 

Queensrÿche (EP) - Wikipedia

Sonically, the song features an array of riff-influences, building a symbiotic relationship between Darkthrone (the coast people, in this instance) picking self-titled EP-era Queensryche and Tom G. Warrior (the eider birds) for necessities. Wow! What an observation by me! *Eye-roll*

The tempo switch during the song’s back half really brings this one together. In hindsight, it’s the best song on the record. However, “The Heavy Hand” will rip the wistfulness from your bones, throwing the tone back to the band’s Panzerfaust-era with a “The Hordes of Nebulah” inspired riff. The final track, a near-10-minute epic entitled “The Lone Pines of the Lost Planet,” is a beautiful sendoff. It takes the ideas from each subsequent track for a brilliant coupe de grace. The final riff of the album is triumphant, with Fenriz’s vocals howling over it. Again, his vocal performance moments truly bring some of these songs together and are some of the most memorable moments on the album.

As I mentioned earlier, this era of Darkthrone isn’t for everyone, and that’s perfectly fine. For the old-school metal faithful, It Beckons Us All is for you. It’s another Darkthrone album full of memorable riffs, vocal performances and throwbacks to the icons that shaped heavy music as we know it today. In the end, one thing is for certain: Fenriz and Nocturno Culto know how to write great metal songs; this record is another testament to that narrative. 

But on the other hand, maybe I’m just falling into the nostalgia trap. If that’s the case, I’m thinking oblivion. 

Well…

It beckons us all…

Photo courtesy of Peer Olav Kittilsen

Posted by Josh Heath

Taller than Glenn Danzig, but shorter than a funeral doom LP. Lover of riffs and cheesy horror films. Hot wing connoisseur. On Twitter or X, whatever: @CatacombsMedia

  1. Sweet review up the irons! I’ve lately been lit to nothing by 1st wave BM my playlist Celtic frost early sodom goat lord and Morbid love lis Tormentor so this fits in nicely hail dark throne ! The authority out! Peace!!!!

    Reply

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