Norwegian Black Metal legends Darkthrone return with their latest full length, astoundingly their nineteenth, the five track, forty-five-minute offering, Eternal Hails, created in their usual inimitably wonderful, eccentric style.
Darkthrone – Eternal Hails (Peaceville Records)
Release Date: Out Now
Words: Jools Green
On Eternal Hails, the longer, doomier songs reflect drummer Fenriz’s love of Doom. With nothing under the seven-minute mark and a couple passing nine minutes, they are taking their time to make their point in true Doom tradition, so this should also grab Doom fans’ attention.
The inspiration for this stretches back even further than them discovering Black Metal, the sounds of the ’70s and the more freewheeling sounds of bands playing with more expansive themes, adding a different slant on several tracks.
No lyrical concept
Lyrically, Eternal Hails follows previous Darkthrone concepts, which is no concept whatsoever. Each song stands alone, words and music created separately, until such a time as one needs to find the other.
As Fenriz explains, “As I write lyrics that have a life on their own these days (again), there is no concept of them to match the songs themselves. The lyrics collect dust while we make the songs, and then Ted needs the lyrics for his vocals in the studio, and he gets them then.
“So, I have no idea what song is going to be called what until I come back to the studio after the vocals are done. Again, with us, it is coincidental. The lyrics did not inspire any of the songs or songwriting.
“When we make the songs, it is a matter of just trusting our lives in Heavy Metal and – BOOM! – create, create, create, and then put the pieces together.”
I have to say this is such a brilliantly organic system that only two guys who have worked together as long as Fenriz and Nocturno have and who instinctively know each other’s style and way of thinking could pull off.
One new aspect which has slightly influenced this release is that all albums since 2004 were recorded using their own Necrohell II studio, a portable 8-track recorder housed in an old bomb shelter. This was a replacement for the original Necrohell 4-track used for Transilvanian Hunger and Panzerfaust, until it became “too necro” and broke.
So, for Eternal Hails, the band went to Chaka Khan Studio in Oslo for the first time, with Fenriz even ending up using a drum kit belonging to Carmine Appice from when he was in Rod Stewart’s band.
Old school stalwarts need not fear, the same filthy lo-fi sound we’ve come to love still exists, even more so here, ironically.
Opening track His Master’s Voice is a dirty, D-beat rich, Doom infused, dark chunk of lo-fi goodness that reeks of old school. With some excellent drum work, only Darkthrone could pull off a track like this successfully.
The filth infused Doom continues with Hate Cloak, again with a dirty old school feel, very haunting and hypnotic. As the pace picks up, it becomes blacker and more sinister but still hugely engaging. I love the precise drum patterning and squealy guitar leads. It is an understatedly brilliant track that offers a new surprise with every turn it takes.
Wake of the Awakened takes on more of an up-tempo Black Metal drive. To the greater part, it does ebb away suspensefully in places and has a slightly more cavernous aspect than the predecessors. A great track with some addictive little riff patterns that fascinate.
The penultimate piece Voyage To A North Pole Adrift is a wonderfully meandering slice of dirty Black and Doom, filled with icy mystery and intrigue. With a repeating element that makes you feel like you are wandering in circles through all manner of challenging terrains and lost, there is a pace that ranges from the Black and frantic to the slow and laboriously doomy. With a modest but effective chunk of second-half lead work, this is an absolutely superb track.
I love the up-tempo, dirty hypnotic groove that courses through the final track, Lost Arcane City Of Uppakra. The bizarre and wistful mid-point drop takes you by surprise, as does the way it returns—a very spacy and fascinating piece of music.
The album’s artwork features the piece Pluto And Charon (1972) by British science fiction artist David A. Hardy. This has been a hugely inspirational image for both Fenriz and Nocturno Culto for several decades, “standing as a symbolic link between the genre-bending styles apparent on Darkthrone’s earliest works, to those same traits evident on Eternal Hails.”
Ultimately Eternal Hails is different enough to sound fresh and new but unmistakably and uniquely Darkthrone. As Fenriz himself puts it, “No matter what happens, we will still sound like us, it seems!”
Either way, it’s a release that is definitely worth your attention.
Eternal Hails is available in the several formats at darkthrone.lnk.to/EternalHails
Limited edition deluxe box set is available, containing an exclusive purple coloured heavyweight vinyl / CD in alternate digisleeve format / cassette tape / 12-page booklet containing a biography surrounding the creation of the album and studio experience / 10″ art print of David Hardy’s Pluto And Charon painting / handwritten letter print from Fenriz
Also available as CD, Black 180g vinyl LP, Various 180g coloured vinyl LP, Picture disc and Digital download.