DARKTHRONE ‘Old Star’ Review

DARKTHRONE – ‘OLD STAR’ 2019 Peaceville Records

This, the (?) 18th album by Darkthrone, dropped through my letterbox this morning. For years they’ve been arriving in this way, I’ve then gone to work, and they’ve then lived in my car for a few months. But not today! Today is a day off, so I can listen to this in the kitchen and do what I’ve been meaning to do for a long time, review some great music!

Normally I like an album to be a surprise, but thanks to the immense track ‘The Hardship of the Scots’ being released on Youtube a couple of months back, and because like everyone else these days I end up leaving videos playing like a kind of bespoke radio show in the background whilst I am beavering about at home, I got a kind of idea of what to expect with OLD STAR – a riff heavy metal / black and roll album. But, knowing these two it could have occasional bursts of yelling, right? Or maybe some yodelling?

No, this is a consistent listen – more like 2013s ‘The Underground Resistance’. Unlike the last album ‘Arctic Thunder’, which had Fenriz written all over it, and I do have a lot of respect for the guy, this appears to be Nocturno Culto’s work mostly ( Edit – I got that completely wrong, they wrote three songs each). He’s a very good guitarist of course – happy to be out of the limelight in a band that has a reputation for being sloppy, and then just puts together ideas that piss all over most other musicians anyway – so I’m happy to review a work that appears almost completely made of his riffs.

I have no idea what everyone else is saying about this album right now but I’ll give this a go. So after three plays this morning, here are my first impressions.

Soundwise, the album is polished, with the low end being well played ( sounds like fingered bass at times ) and well produced. There is a definite return to early Black Metal atmosphere with the amount of reverb on the guitars and drums – and Culto is slipping in a few classic BM suspensions from the old days – just touches – which are balanced nicely against the heavy metal riffage. Rhythmically Fenriz is a powerhouse on this one – no frills, just the perfect beat for every phrase. Very good drumming. All the singing appears to be done by Culto.

So, knowing what a pair of awkward bastards these two are – how does this go track by track?

I Muffle Your Inner Choir introduces an angular phrase that has you wondering for a few seconds where it is actually going, and then whether or not you like it? Are they taking the piss again? No, turns out it’s a good track. ‘The Hardship of the Scots’ is a classic – the ending riff should get in the black and roll hall of fame. Old Star is slow, stubborn and doesn’t want you to like it, but is littered with old BM references so if you grew up with this music you will anyway. Alp Man starts off as a straightforward ‘one two’ riff with all over the place chromatics, and then roars down into a beat like something off the super-Frostian ‘Panzerfaust’. Oh, I was almost wiping away a tear! Duke of Gloat starts up the black and roll before spreading out into a kind of open instrumental piece – I don’t mean like that dull landscape black metal – no, this actually works! The Key is Inside the Wall is heavy as fuck, and is the first time you get to hear what the drums sounds like on their own. Am I right in thinking this was recorded somewhere high end? It moves through two cycles of slow down-beating doom before ending abruptly, like ‘too abruptly to end an album’ abruptly. Haha!

Overall if you already have the old stuff and like the band, you will be happy with Old Star. It’s a cleverly put together album which is both progressive whilst using figures and motifs from their previous works, a middle finger to any purists.

So there you have it – Darkthrone have made another belter that should restore your faith in old timers.

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