Album Review: Darkthrone – The Underground Resistance

//Album Review: Darkthrone – The Underground Resistance

Darkthrone The Unholy Resistance review

Darkthrone – The Underground Resistance Review

By James Hibbert

Darkthrone is a band that needs no introduction. A band that has become something of an institution (whether you like it or not) within the global metal scene throughout the longevity of it’s existence, consistently adding to a commendably lengthy back-catalogue of relatively steady quality and never straying too far from it’s roots despite it’s existence in a constant state of flux, change and progression. Darkthrone has proven itself a monolith of consistency in change.

Indeed, from its conception in the late 1980s and over the course of it’s near 25-year lifespan, the band has been forever shaping and shifting through a variety of manifestations and although the significance of it’s early 90s era is not to be understated; it’s absoluteness is often over-emphasised by those who deem it the be all and end all. This most influential “Under the Sign of the Black Mark” reminiscent stint of course followed on from the death metal sounds of the band’s early years before soon giving way to the Celtic Frost worship of “Panzerfaust” – by 2006 the transitory “The Cult Is Alive” lead through into the punk informed heavy metal rampage of the band’s most recent efforts. Baring this in mind, Darkthrone has time and time again proven it’s capacity for taking it’s influences and using them as a tool in the crafting of it’s own identity whilst simultaneously acting as a vehicle for expressing the range of ideas that inform the minds of the band’s two songwriting contributors, resulting in a formula impossible to replicate that instead of changing with the metal scene, prompts change within it. 

In regards to sixteenth full-length to date, 2013’s “The Underground Resistance”, discussion is impossible to pursue without some consideration for notions of ‘change’ and ‘progress’. Despite this the release may not be quite as extreme an auditory leap as it at first appears, presenting a perhaps more obvious exploration of a variety of sonic landscapes that have always been present in the band’s sound in a manner that should not prove too surprising considering the status of this release as the follow up to “Circle the Wagons”, an album that in many ways feels somewhat prototypical to this more wholesome pursuit.

Instantly recognisable in “The Underground Resistance” is how the album is structured over the course of its 40 minutes. Six tracks distinguish this time period, three Fenriz and three Nocturno Culto in an alternating pattern beginning with the latter. The distinction between the two is clear yet the result is cohesive. Opener “Dead Early” is a thrashy mid to fast pace affair and although not necessarily being a standout track it features one of the album’s catchier hooks. Following on from this comes Fenriz’ first effort, “Valkyrie”, a bombastic, huge and epic affair beginning with a contrastingly restrained introduction somewhat reminding the listener of “Hammerheart” era Bathory before the song erupts into it’s victoriously early power metal sounding body, narrated by the howled singing of an almost Isengard-like Fenriz, a vocal approach first explored by the band on “Circle the Wagons”. The album’s third and fourth tracks, “Lesser Men” and “The Ones You Left Behind” prove to beless engaging than their predecessors and indeed successors, although neither necessarily disappoint; with the latter being more enjoyable than the former. Fifth track, “Come Warfare the Entire Doom”, however, perhaps proves to be the album’s absolute pinnacle: a more down-tempo affair than we’re used to, representing some flirtation with a doom metal formula, as the name would suggest. Lastly comes the massive “Leave No Cross Unturned”, a huge 13-minute affair that tosses and turns between a variety of different sounds, from it’s 1985 speed metal beginnings that to some degree remind the listener of Agent Steel, through to the song’s Celtic Frost worshipping mid-section and it’s Pentagram styled closure there is an undeniable abundance of ideas. Despite this the piece feels somewhat over-drawn beyond that which it’s content should warrant, with it’s beginning being repeated in a manner that feels somewhat unnecessary although the nature of the song would indicate that such a repetition is necessary in order for it’s conflicting sounds to be allowed room to breath and correspondingly cohere – thus the result of this has both positive and negative aspects. Indeed, this contradiction raises a whole set of questions and concerns alongside a series of polarising ideas that in many ways have resulted in this album being one that has proven particularly difficult for this reviewer to not only summarise but to form a consistent opinion regarding.

Whilst I do feel as though “The Underground Resistance” improves and expands upon the formula employed on “Circle the Wagons”, in some ways the end-product feels a lot less engaging than it could have or perhaps should have been. Fenriz’ singing has massively improved upon that employed on the preceding release and unlike “Circle the Wagons” it’s not often that I find myself skipping songs, however at the same time there feels to be some sort of mediocrity regarding the release – one that is difficult to pin-point or to define. In many ways it feels as though this release would somehow be written off as one of many Manilla Road cover bands and classic metal revivalist ventures if released by anybody else; by no means a poor effort but certainly one mediocre release amongst many. The bottom line, though, is that this isn’t one of many Manilla Road cover bands or classic metal revivals, it’s Darkthrone being Darkthrone and despite it’s seemingly uninspired nature it can’t help but be inspiring because it feels utterly and undeniably genuine; a genuine mid-life crisis, perhaps, but genuine nonetheless. The pair know exactly what it is they want to achieve and exactly how to go about achieving it and no matter what it is that they release there will be those who adore it quite simply because it is Darkthrone and equally, there will be those that detest it and loath it quite simply because it is Darkthrone.

“The Underground Resistance” is a release explorative of a whole history of heavy metal, delving deep into the band’s well of influences and continuing their legacy as individuals that stand on their own two feet but do so on ground fertile with the musical heritage of others. Most importantly, Darkthrone write songs and although the album may feel somewhat unmemorable at times it is a release that is quite simply fun.



Find Darkthrone on Peaceville here.

Get a free sample track from the album below:

By |2013-03-30T00:00:00+01:00March 30th, 2013|CD Reviews|0 Comments

About the Author:

Leave A Comment