Darkthrone: Eternal Hail …… | Album review


Darkthrone is an underground metal institution. The Norwegian duo have delved into so many metal and punk niches that no direction they’ve taken sums up their output enough. Ultimately, the spirit of Darkthrone is the sound of the ’80s underground. Gylve “Fenriz” Nagell and Ted “Nocturno Culto” Skjellum have both become ardent and staunch curators of the most primitive and rotten sounds of this decade, distilling death metal, thrash, doom and heavy metal in meticulous and authentic arrangements. Although the ingredients remain the same, the specific formulation of Darkthrone has changed over time. Their early albums featured a wealth of Celtic Frost and Bathory, then developed into a mid-crust punk and trad-metal era, and now into an era of slower, doom-infused heavy metal. That’s why, with Darkthrone’s 19th studio release, Eternal hi …… it makes sense for the band to sound pretty much the way they always do, despite all their stylistic tinkering.

The album opens with “His Master’s Voice,” a particularly sinister track filled with riffs reminiscent of Darkthrone’s first death metal release, albeit considerably more deliberate and dark. The song’s molasses tempos and thick, syrupy guitar tone showcase the album’s fantastic sense of weight, with riffs that start painfully and begin to reveal their power around six minutes into the song. With such a methodical beat, Darkthrone emphasizes their deceptively simple and elegant songwriting. The tracks here are longer, with bigger builds and more linear progressions than on previous efforts such as Arctic thunder and Old star. No single sequence taken on its own is particularly complex, but their variety and rhythm seem more taken into account than most riff-focused groups. A particular highlight is how Darkthrone closes off the B-side with some of the strangest moments of their career. “Voyage to a Northpole Adrift” opens softly, with a weirdly jarring, spider-like guitar riff that sets an ominous and unsettling tone, while a hypnotic analog synth solo on the final track tears away from left field to create the final and haunting crescendo of the album. It’s kind of a welcome quirk, ending Eternal salvation… .. on an unconventional note.

If 2013 Underground resistance was the culmination of all the sonic maturation of the band’s heavy metal and crust albums, Eternal hi …… is pretty much the same for their late era of slow heavy metal. Or Arctic thunder tested Darkthrone’s vocabulary in style, its successor Old star pushed the group to compose whole sentences in a rotten and heavy language. These previous albums reveal just how Eternal hi …… explored the contemporary sound of Darkthrone, both in terms of composition and sound. Extensive and varied songwriting is ubiquitous throughout the album, an imperative for a songlist of just five (long) songs, while Darkthrone also shifted its tone to reinforce the decrepit, heavy beat of the music. Bass is the name of the game, as if it wasn’t always fully audible it freezes around the guitar and lends the tone of the snare Eternal hi …… a rounder, more wet sound texture.

Darkthrone’s greatest strength transcends any specific aspect of their sound. Their music should stand on its own while acting as a heavy metal encyclopedia, a portal to a world where bands like Metallica, Manilla Road and Bathory coexist in the same canon, without genre enmity or even convention. Darkthrone evokes a mythological take on heavy metal where these bands were each an integral part of the sound and spirit of all hard and true metal. Eternal hi …… is just another chapter of Darkthrone creating a singular stylistic amalgamation from their many disparate sources. They are as likely a band to release a doom metal riff from Candlemass as a thrash metal band like Metal Church. Darkthrone cares less about conventions and more about specific angles and peculiarities of classic heavy metal, and on Eternal hi …… they represent all the glory and strangeness of its slowest and heaviest groups.

Label: Peaceville

Year: 2021

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hail eternal darkthrone review
hail eternal darkthrone review


Non-binary writer moving from one hemisphere to another. A black metal girl and a prog daddy.

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