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Death Metal (1987-1991)
As one of Norway's longest standing Black Metal bands, Darkthrone have been a constant driving force in extreme metal since their creation in 1987, and have played a key role in the evolution of Norwegian Black Metal in particular with many of their early albums being regarded as highly influential and all time classics of the genre.
As Black Death
Darkthrone was originally formed under the name Black Death in the fall of 1986 in the Kolbotn suburb of Oslo, Norway, by guitarists Anders Risberget, Ivar Enger and Gylve Nagell, who also provided drumming, bass guitar vocals and lyrics. They played their own brand of Death Metal, drawing influences from North American Thrash Metal legends Slayer and Cryptic Slaughter, as well as Swiss band Celtic Frost.
They released two demos under the name Black Death before changing their name to Darkthrone in 1987, with the new name being inspired in part by the lyrics of the Celtic Frost song "Jewel Throne", and to a lesser extent by a Danish metal zine at the time named Blackthorn. Darkthrone's logo was designed by Tomas "Tompa" Lindberg, singer of Swedish Death Metal legends At The Gates.
It was around this time that bass guitarist Dag Nilsen joined the band, and he was followed shortly afterwards by Ted Skjellum in the beginning of 1988. With this new line-up Darkthrone recorded 4 demos titled Land Of Frost, A New Dimension, Thulcandra and Cromlech between February 1988 and November 1989. Anders Risberget left the band shortly after the recording of their first demo, Land Of Frost.
Soon after the release of these four demo tapes, Darkthrone were signed to a four album contract by Peaceville Records, a British independent record label. Their first full length studio recording was titled Soulside Journey and was recorded in 1990 at Sunlight Studios in Sweden provided by members of Swedish Death Metal band Nihilist, who would later reform as Entombed. Curiously, Gylve Nagell is credited as "Hank Amarillo" on this first album, stating that he was rather displeased with the growing trend in American Death Metal and thought it would be ironic and mocking to have an overly American-sounding name.
Soulside Journey was released in January 1991 and would be their only predominantly Death Metal full length album, as they would soon begin to shift their style increasingly towards Black Metal. Because of this, several recordings made after the release of Soulside Journey were scrapped from inclusion in their next album, although they can be found on their 1996 compilation album Goatlord, which consists of several insrumental demo recordings made in 1991 during this transitional phase, with vocals being added in 1994.
Transition towards Black Metal
During August 1991, Darkthrone began recording what would be their first predominantly Black Metal studio recording titled A Blaze In The Northern Sky at Creative Studios in Norway. Norwegian Black Metal pioneers Mayhem had also used the Creative Studios to record their classic debut EP Deathcrush, which coincidentally was the first strictly Black Metal studio recording ever made by any Norwegian Black Metal band. It was around this time that the some of Darkthrone's members met Mayhem's guitarist and founder Øystein "Euronymous" Aarseth, who particularly influenced Gylve Nagell and Ted Skjellum into what was then the still young but rapidly growing Norwegian Black Metal scene. Darkthrone's members soon adopted pseudonyms in typical Black Metal fashion, and transitioned ever more towards the Black Metal sound and aesthetic. Gylve Nagell adopted the pseudonym "Fenriz", Ted Skjellum adopted the pseudonym "Nocturno Culto", and Ivar Enger adopted the pseudonym "Zephyrous".
Bass guitarist Dag Nilsen on the other hand was not convinced with Darkthrone's sudden departure from Death Metal, and left the band shortly after recording his parts for the upcoming A Blaze In The Northern Sky album. Even so, some Death Metal elements are still recognizable, and Fenriz has stated that many of the songs feature "Death Metal guitar riffs played in a Black Metal style", which is a consequence of the album being rushed due to time constraints in order to comply with their contract with Peaceville Records.
Although originally hesitant about releasing the album due to the sudden change in style in comparison to their first album, Peaceville Records eventually released A Blaze In The Northern Sky in February 1992 after Darkthrone had threatened to release the album through Euronymous's own promising record label, Deathlike Silence Productions, which dealed exclusively with Black Metal. It would prove to be a decisive release in the history of Black Metal, being significantly influential for years to come and marking the first part of what would later be known as their "Unholy Trinity". All releases of A Blaze in the Northern Sky contain the liner note "This album is eternally dedicated to the king of death/black metal, Euronymous".
Darkthrone returned to Creative Studios in June 1992 to begin recording their third full length album titled Under A Funeral Moon, although it wasn't released until June 1993 by Peaceville Records. Under A Funeral Moon marked the first Darkthrone album to be entirely within the Black Metal genre, and is also widely regarded as an all-time classic.
This would also be their last album to feature guitarist Zephyrous as, according to Nocturno Culto, he left the band due to increasing misanthropy and hatred towards mankind, retreating into the woods and never returning, although Nocturno Culto has also stated in some interviews that he still maintains contact with Zephyrous occasionally, and that he would like him to contribute towards some Darkthrone songs as a guest musician at some point in the future. From this point onwards, with a few exceptions, all instrumental and songwriting duties would be shared more or less equally by Fenriz and Nocturno Culto, although Fenriz would almost exclusively handle the drumming, while Nocturno Culto would almost exclusively handle the singing.
As 1993 came to an end, Darkthrone entered the studio once again and began recording what would be their fourth and most important album ever, Transilvanian Hunger, which to this day is regarded as one of most influential Black Metal albums of all time, and also one of the most representative albums of the trademark Norwegian Black Metal sound. The album was released in February 1994 amid minor controversy regarding several provocative comments included on the back cover of the album.
It is also worth mentioning that Varg Vikernes, bass guitarist for Mayhem and creator of the Norwegian Black Metal solo project Burzum, who had murdered fellow Mayhem guitarist Øystein "Euronymous" Aarseth in 1993, wrote the lyrics for the last four songs on Transilvanian Hunger. All instruments on the album were recorded by Fenriz while Nocturno Culto took care of vocals only, with the album's sounding slightly rawer than the previous two releases, with a purposefully "low-fi" recording quality which went on to define the subgenre's sound.
The title of the album Transilvanian Hunger is dedicated to Mayhem's singer Per Yngve "Dead" Ohlin, who commited suicide on the 8th of April, 1991, shooting himself in the head with a shotgun while he happened to be wearing an "I ♥ Transylvania" t-shirt. On the cover of the album, Fenriz appears in what is clearly a reference to the cover of Mayhem's first live album Live In Leipzig that featured Dead wearing corpsepaint and holding a candelabra. The cover artwork for Transilvanian Hunger has since become iconic for Norwegian Black Metal and Black Metal in general.
Transilvanian Hunger would be Darkthrone's last album to be released through Peaceville Records, completing their "Unholy Trinity" trilogy, with A Blaze In The Northern Sky and Under A Funeral Moon being the first and second parts respectively. By late 1994 Darkthrone had switched to Norwegian record label Moonfog Productions, which was owned by fellow Black Metal musician Sigurd "Satyr" Wongraven from the band Satyricon, and they would remain releasing their albums through his record label for the next 12 years before eventually returning to Peaceville Records in 2006.
Change to Moonfog Productions
Their fifth full length album, titled Panzerfaust, was released in June 1995, although recording had begun in early 1994 at Necrohell Studios. Panzerfaust retained the characteristic raw production values previously present on their Transilvanian Hunger album released the previous year, with Fenriz once again handling all instrumental recordings while Nocturno Culto handled vocals only. One of the songs on Panzerfaust, "Quintessence", features lyrics written by Varg Vikernes from Burzum, who had previously contributed lyrics for four of the songs on Darkthrone's Transilvanian Hunger album.
In 1996 Darkthrone released their sixth full length album, titled Total Death. To date this is the only Darkthrone album to not feature lyrics written by Fenriz, instead being written either by Nocturno Culto or contributed by other Norwegian Black Metal musicians, such as Garm from Borknagar / Ulver, Satyr from Satyricon, Czral from Ved Buens Ende, or Ihsahn from Emperor. Nocturno Culto also handled guitar and bass guitar parts on several songs.
Darkthrone's next release was the compilation album Goatlord, released in 1996 through Moonfog Productions, consisting of songs that were recorded during rehearsals after the recording of Soulside Journey in 1990 and before the recording of A Blaze In The Northern Sky in 1991. The songs were originally intended to be included on their second album, but were discarded as Darkthrone began their transition from Death Metal to Black Metal. The recordings on Goatlord were originally purely instrumental, although vocals were eventually added in 1994, with Fenriz claiming that he provided the female vocals himself.
Between 1998 and 1999 Darkthrone had the honour of being the focus of two tribute albums dedicated to them by a number of famous Norwegian Black Metal bands. The first of these, titled Darkthrone Holy Darkthrone, was released in 1998, and included contributions by Satyricon, Enslaved, Thorns, Emperor, Dødheimsgard, Gehenna, Gorgoroth and Immortal, covering songs from their first four albums as well as one song from Goatlord.
The second tribute album dedicated to Darkthrone, titled The Next Thousand Years Are Ours, was released in 1999 and featured contributions by 14 relatively lesser known but equally respected Black Metal bands such as Lycanthropy, Conquest, Megiddo, Demon Realm and Myrddraal.
In 1999 Darkthrone released their seventh studio recording titled Ravishing Grimness, which would be their last full length album to retain the characteristic Black Metal sound which they had defined over eight years earlier with the release of their sophomore album A Blaze In The Northern Sky, although with Ravishing Grimness some elements of change are present, such as the preference for more subliminal and philosophical lyrics instead of the more standard and straightforward blasphemic approach, as well as a generally slower and heavier pace in the drumming as opposed to the blast-beats and fast tempos predominant on their previous albums. These themes would gradually have an increased presence on Darkthrone's future recordings. Ravishing Grimness was recorded at the Ronny Le Tekrøe Studio at Toten, Norway, with songwriting being almost exclusively handled by Nocturno Culto.
Before the millenium was over, Darkthrone released a commemorative compliation titled Preparing For War in October 2000, featuring a selection of their greatest songs and several unreleased demo tracks, as well some recordings from rare live Darkthrone performances, all of which were recorded between 1988 and 1994.
Change in sound with Plaguewielder
In June 2001 Darkthrone recorded their eighth full length studio recording titled Plaguewielder, and released the album in September of the same year, again through Moonfog Productions. Like their previous album, Plaguewielder was also recorded at the Ronny Le Tekrøe Studio and songwriting was again handled almost entirely by Nocturno Culto. Apollyon, from Aura Noir and Immortal fame, contributed vocals on the song "Command". This album marked an important shift in Darkthrone's sound towards a slower and heavier breed of Black Metal, however the change was met with varying degrees of criticism by fans, and therefor Plaguewielder arguably remains their least popular recording to date, although it should be noted that the criticism was more due to the change in style itself than the actual quality of the album's music.
In December 2002, Darkthrone recorded their ninth full length album titled Hate Them, and released it through Moonfog Productions in March 2003. Hate Them continued the same brand of slower and more Thrash influenced Black Metal that they had showcased on Plaguewielder, although with Hate Them there was more aggression to be found in both the music and vocals, possibly being due to the fact that Fenriz played a bigger role in the songwriting as well as playing guitar and bass parts during the recording of the album. This album also features electronic intro and outro segments produced by Lars Sørensen from Norwegian Industrial band Red Harvest.
In the autumn of 2004 Darkthrone released their tenth full length recording, titled Sardonic Wrath, and similar to their two previous albums. Apollyon, from Aura Noir and Immortal, once again contributed vocals on the song "Hate Is The Law". This would mark the end of an era, being their last album to be released through Moonfog Productions, as well as being the last Darkthrone album to be recorded in a pure Black Metal style, as all future releases by the band would see them incorporating many Punk and Rock n' Roll elements in their music.
Transition towards Punk
In 2006, Darkthrone released an EP titled Too Old Too Cold with four songs, two of which would be included on their next full lenght album and offered a sign of things to come with their next change in style towards a more Crust Punk / Rock n' Roll influenced hybrid of Old School Black Metal. Their first full length album to feature this new mix of Punk and Black Metal, described as "Black n' Roll" by some, was titled The Cult Is Alive, and was released in February 2006 through Peaceville Records, who had previously worked withDarkthrone on a four-album contract during their early years from 1990 to 1994.
The Cult Is Alive was their eleventh full length album, and was met with polarizing opinions from Darkthrone's fans, with some praising the bands shift in direction towards what could be seen as a tribute to the first generation of Black Metal bands, while others ceased to take the band seriously anymore, failing to see the connection. The Cult Is Alive was included in Norway's Music Charts where it peaked at 22nd place. Darkthrone also made what could be described as a mock home-made promo video for the song "Too Old Too Cold", with an overall Fuck You All attitude which generally coincided with the lyrical themes of the new album as a whole. Fenriz provided vocals for the song "Graveyard Slut".
In 2007 Darkthrone released another EP titled N.W.O.B.H.M, standing for "New Wave Of Black Heavy Metal", as opposed to the acronym's original meaning, "New Wave Of British Heavy Metal". The EP featured four new songs, three of which would make their way onto Darkthrones next full length album.
Darkthrone's twelfth full length studio recording, titled F.O.A.D, was released in September 2007 through Peaceville Records. The acronym stands for "Fuck Off And Die". This album distances itself even more from the band's traditional Black Metal roots by introducing more Punk and Heavy Metal elements than before. In the same vein as their previous album The Cult Is Alive, F.O.A.D's lyrical themes revolve around the purity of "true" metal and it's meaning. Fenriz once again provided vocals on some parts of the album, this time for a total of four songs. F.O.A.D would also see the introduction of the character "Max Necro" on the cover art, illustrated by Dennis Dread who has been in charge of drawing the album covers for Darkthrone's last three full length albums.
Between October 2007 and July 2008, Darkthrone entered the Necrohell II Studio and recorded their thirteenth full length album titled Dark Thrones And Black Flags. The album's sound is more or less a continuation of the same Crust Punk / Blackened Heavy Metal hybrid present on their previous album, F.O.A.D, although this time Fenriz and Nocturno Culto equally shared all songwriting, lyrical, vocal and guitar duties.
To coincide with Darkthrone's 21st anniversary, the band released a compliation Box Set in 2008 titled The Frostland Tapes, consisting of their first four demos, a rare live concert held in Denmark in 1990, and the instrumental version of Goatlord.
Darkthrone's fourteenth and latest full length album, titled Circle The Wagons, was released in April 2010 through Peaceville Records, and carries on where the previous album left off in the evolution of their own trademark hybrid of Old School Punk and Black Metal. Circle The Wagons once again entered the Norwegian Music Charts, peaking at 23rd position.
- Last updated by Imperator on 1st January, 2013 -
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