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Shadow Music Ryan Harding Review by
Ryan Harding
Darkthrone: Plague Wielder
DARKTHRONE: PLAGUEWIELDER
Moonfog Records

Moonfog is currently splitting their releases between the forward-thinking black metal of SATYRICON, THORNS, and DODHEIMSGARD, and the regressive glories of KHOLD . . . and genre MVPs Darkthrone. Once thought extinct in the interim between TOTAL DEATH and RAVISHING GRIMNESS, the Norsemen return a year after Ravishing with PLAGUEWIELDER. While it will probably not change the minds of those whose interest in Darkthrone has waned since the underrated TOTAL DEATH, it is another excellent release for those of us who don't necessarily want another UNDER A FUNERAL MOON, but just want another DARKTHRONE album.

Once again, the line-up consists of Nocturno Culto (vocals/guitar) and Fenriz (drums). RAVISHING GRIMNESS saw them performing in a more mid-paced HELLHAMMER range, with Fenriz enjoying his increased regression as a drummer. PLAGUEWIELDER finds him more animated, injecting several fast tempos in most songs as well as a lot of double bass. It's probably his most efficient performance since Panzerfaust. Nocturno continues with the riff sensibilities of Ravishing, but with a lot more double-picking (and a rather crazy riff in the chorus of "Command"). In other words it's DARKTHRONE within the parameters they established long ago, which were unique in their emergence in 1991, and in an increasingly electronic age of black metal, still are.

Fenriz's lyrics have changed, more self-reflexive than the evil poetry for which he's reknowned. From "Sin Origin":
"I am of pride and contempt /
A crossfire volunteer /
Laughing while my world gets trampled /
Life is just a shadow of death."

RAVISHING GRIMNESS's theory that "Resistance is futile" gets reworked in "Command" to "Existence is futile." He remains an interesting lyric writer, and musician as well on the very old school "Sin Origin," his sole contribution to the songwriting.

PLAGUEWIELDER offers six songs for 43 minutes, longer entries which trade between all-out thrash-tempos and unassuming mid-pacing. "Command" is one of the longest at eight minutes, and one of the best, with guest vocals by CADAVER INC.'s Apollyon, and Sverre Daehli (who played guitar on the AURA NOIR song "Released Damnation"). Finale "Wreak" opens with a faint resemblance to MAYHEM's "Pagan Fears," though ultimately unfolding in an entirely different way. As with RAVISHING GRIMNESS, the old school stylings of the album owe some influence (but mostly just inspiration) to HELLHAMMER, and while there is no shortage of bands who can lay claim to that, Darkthrone arrives at a solid conclusion that leaves you saying not "That was some great Hellhammer worship" but "That was definitely Darkthrone."

No gothic accessibility, no trends, no clinical production, and no equal.

5 SKULLS

Perplex SkullPerplex SkullPerplex SkullPerplex SkullPerplex Skull

This review copyright 2001 E.C.McMullen Jr.

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