[25th February 2013][Peaceville Records]
01. Dead Early
03. Lesser Men
04. The Ones You Left Behind
05. Come Warfare, the Entire Doom
06. Leave No Cross Unturned
This is not the Darkthrone you knew. This is not even the Darkthrone you knew in the new millennium. This is Darkthrone taking a time machine back to 1985 and jamming Celtic Frost and Agent Steel songs, then coming back and releasing an album based on those jams. Darkthrone were once one of the premier black metal bands and are credited for having given black metal its cold, raw production values, as well as several classic black metal albums that are amazingly influential. Later on, Darkthrone morphed into something more akin to blackened crust punk, and managed to create some absolutely excellent albums in that style as well. Now, on their newest release The Underground Resistance, the metal masters have created something reminiscent of 80s speed metal mixed with very early black metal.
The Underground Resistance borrows heavily from the sound created by early and mid 80s bands such as Agent Steel, Celtic Frost, Raven, Venom, and Bathory. It is packed to the brim with speedy riffs and breakneck drumming. The guitar has a snarling tone that recalls a time long past, and grabs one by one’s throat and will not let go. It has that thinner, rougher, more biting feel that many bands seem to ignore these days in favour of more smooth and polished sounds. The drumming is solid and pounding; like the headache you get after a night of too much whiskey at some underground thrash metal show. The vocals are gruff, but clean, which is an alteration from their past works, which have used more crust punk styled snarls. Additionally, for the first time Darkthrone are attempting falsetto vocals. The style tends to fit really well with the sound the band are going for on this album, though there are a few teething issues with them. They sound a little as if from a newer band, just starting out rather than veterans who have been making metal for two decades. If that is the sound they wanted, then they achieved it, though a little more power would make them so much better. The song “The Ones You Left Behind” is a good example of where this style does not quite work.
Composition wise, this album is quite good. It pushes Darkthrone into a new style, and the band acquits themselves rather well – though, as with their transformation into crust punk, it shows a few teething issues as they adjust to playing a newer style. There are some excellent sections – particularly in the albums magnum opus, the epic “Leave No Cross Unturned” – but other parts that feel a little flat and lacking spirit. The song “Valkyrie” has a few drier areas, though it also does sport an excellent marching majestic intro, and a pretty good headbangable verse. The previously mentioned “The Ones You Left Behind” is another example of some of the weaker moments on the album. It is lacklustre, and lacks the true spirit that makes Darkthrone great.
Ultimately though, The Underground Resistance is a Darkthrone album, it should not be judged by the same standards as their black metal material, nor as their crust punk era; this album is far more speed metal and Celtic Frost-type black metal. It has some solid – even excellent – parts, but occasionally suffers from a few less interesting ideas. The production is perfect for the sound Darkthrone, being rough around the edges but still clear enough to let everything come through equally. The best songs on the album are “Dead Early” “Valkyrie” and “Leave No Cross Unturned” – the latter of which is sure to be considered a Darkthrone classic.
For those new fans of the band as well as fans of black metal, you might want to go with their black metal albums instead. Fans of speed metal and Darkthrone’s crust punk albums should find some enjoyment in this album though.