Norwegian Black Metal legends DARKTHRONE have once again graced us with their unmistakable presence, releasing the heavy-hitting and unique album Old Star, which was out on 31st May 2019.
Fenriz (long-time drummer for Darkthrone) has been quoted as stating "Old Star" is a "....new slab of relentless riffing in the true spirit of the underground." The so-called "darlings" of the underground, or better said, the RAW BEGINNINGS of the Trve Norwegian Black Metal sound, demonstrate their reigning legendary talents (and rightfully so), with "....six epic tracks, the best of old-school heavy/extreme metal, PLUS a LARGE dose of doom-laden riffing...." Fenriz, the long time spokesman of the quite well established duo (himself and mouthpiece Ted "Nocturno Culto" Skjellum), present us with a different kind of Darkthrone album, yet nonetheless, still staying true to their roots while incorporating their love of all types of metal. As Fenriz states, "....All in all it is our most 80s album so far and our most metal one to date with drum sound typical for the 80s USA/German market and damned lyrics, which are all written by me. We feel that OLD STAR is the big brother of ARCTIC THUNDER. More solid and with even better riffs."
The first track, ‘I Muffle your Inner Choir’, begins with a blast to the senses; a sinister, grinding riff and a heavy metal drum beat that most definitely gives off an 80's metal "vibe", with Skjellum's coarse, deep voice spitting out the lyrics as if they are pure vitriol. The unique major/minor chord progression gives it that DOOM feel, showing off the epic talent of Fenriz on drums and Skjellum on guitar. It's a magnificent way to start this album; it puts you in a kind of time warp yet includes relevant lyrics and that undeniable angst that Darkthrone always seems to bring.
‘The Hardship of the Scots’ erupts with heavy metal power chords from the very first riff. For THIS is the '80's USA/German market sound that Fenriz describes and it does not disappoint, providing you’re a heavy metal fan by nature. It then progresses into a very doom-like riff and throughout the song, teeters back and forth between the typical ‘heavy’ metal sound and the sound that Darkthrone is known to bring, Norwegian death and doom. A subtle but unique guitar solo by Skjellum two minutes into the song brings a subtle, yet melodic death riff, which continues to showcase the many facets of metal explored on this album. At three minutes, the tempo changes, with heavy fuzz and distortion atop The scathing vocals from Skjellum, with the song still holding hands with the doom metal atmosphere. The song continues on and finishes, exhibiting the unending skills of Fenriz on drums, with a repetitious riff sequence and speedy tempo- all rolled up into one kick ass metal song, impossible to not raise the horns.
The title track, ‘Old Star’ is most reminiscent of the older Darkthrone albums; heavy doom riffs and that haunting aura. Skjellum's vocals are most prominent in this track, hints of the old screams of the past albums- repeating "mankind dies!!", as Fenriz prods away at the steady and rolling drums in the not so distant background.
With the next track, ‘Alp Man’, again it begins with those well known power metal chords and continues to pound away mercilessly. At one minute in, we venture into the familiar black metal territory to change things up a bit and add a distinctive rhythm to the song, once again calling upon the Darkthrone of old. At two minutes in, the tempo change is a surprise and the doom-laden riffs are very much an anamnesis of a Black Sabbath tune, yet with the unmistakable style of Fenriz, who carries the song with a heavy striking, adding to the doom sound.
‘Duke of Gloat’, the next track, begins with the ferocious tremolo picking that we (as metal fans) all love to hear in our black metal. Again, Darkthrone takes you back to their roots- with the mid-range cutting vocals of Skjellum and relentless pelting of the drums. The tempo is a bit faster than the typical 6/8 time signature most black metal songs are written and it carries like a speeding train, right about to go off the rails. At just over two minutes, we are again thrown into the more doom-like sound, with Skjellum screeching 'All hail to Satan....' and the tempo then shifts back towards that familiar black metal Darkthrone sound, with some very interesting doom and death like riffs intertwined.
The final track, ‘The Key is Inside the Wall’, starts out by far the heaviest hitting on the album. A steady singular drum beat by Fenriz and heavy distorted guitar give it that crust/death metal sound, unlike any of the prior songs. Darkthrone finishes intensely strong, with the simplistic yet unequaled stylings of Fenriz on drums and Skjellum's raspy, yet thick howls, raging over the power metal chords they chose to embrace on this record. It is most definitely not a typical Darkthrone record, yet all of the key elements are there that make up a record that these two Titans of metal can stand behind and be quite proud of.
Review by Marisa Dymond
Fenriz - drums, songwriting, lyrics
Nocturno Culto - strings & vocals, songwriting