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Review for 'Darkthrone - Transilvanian Hunger'
Since it's release in 1994, the golden year of Black Metal for some, Darkthrone's fourth full length album Transilvanian Hunger has become one of the most iconic Black Metal albums ever created, helping define once and for all the quintessential Norwegian Black Metal sound. Until it's arrival, while Mayhem had successfully founded Norwegian Black Metal's roots, Immortal had demonstrated that Black Metal could be 100% top-quality music, Burzum had successfully defined the Pagan / Ambient atmospherics and Emperor had successfully perfected the Epic / Symphonic subgenre, it wasn't until Darkthrone released Transilvanian Hunger that Norwegian Black Metal as a whole was finally complete, or if not complete, pretty damn close.
Improving on their previous works, A Blaze In The Northern Sky and Under A Funeral Moon, each of them being masterpieces in their own right, Darkthrone gathered the best elements from each album, stripped away everything they deemed unnecessary, and melded what was left into the Transilvanian Hunger album we know today. The final product is something that is stunning both for it's superficial simplicity and hidden complexity. It's simplicity lies within the unsophisticated approach to the guitars, drums and vocals, a typical trademark of the genre, but thanks to some truly ingenious songwriting, the end result has an underlying complexity that makes Transilvanian Hunger an album that can be listened to countless times without ever losing it's "edge".
Although Transilvanian Hunger is Darkthrone's fourth album, it is only their third Black Metal album, and is dedicated to fellow Norwegian Black Metal band Mayhem's vocalist Per Yngve "Dead" Ohlin who commited suicide on the 8th of April, 1991. At the time of his death, Dead was wearing an "I ♥ Transylvania" shirt, hence the album's title. On the cover of Transilvanian Hunger, a monochrome picture shows Darkthrone member Fenriz in corpsepaint holding a candelabra in what is a clear reference to the cover of Mayhem's live album Live In Leipzig, where Dead appears in an almost identical pose. The cover for Transilvanian Hunger has since become one of the most iconic album covers in the history of Black Metal, second maybe only to Venom's fundamental album Black Metal or Bathory's debut.
Transilvanian Hunger starts off with the title track "Transilvanian Hunger", and the first thing one notices is just how well the guitar, bass and drums all merge together perfectly to create a sensation of vast cold landscapes, placing you right in the heart of what can only be described as the musical equivalent of a blizzard. Contrary to what you would expect for such an orthodox Black Metal album as Transilvanian Hunger, the bass lines are easily audible and contribute greatly to the overall feel of the music.
From this point onwards each song has both catchy and aggressive parts, intertwined occasionally with some more epic and inspiring passages, although it's the latter that really stick in one's mind and give Transilvanian Hunger that magical feel. There are no tracks that stand out above the rest, each one bearing it's own sinister riffs and grandiose atmosphere, with the sporadic nod towards Celtic Frost appearing here and there.
Interestingly, while the lyrics to the initial song "Transilvanian Hunger", as well as the lyrics to the penultimate song "As Flittermice as Satans spys" are in English, the rest of the album's lyrics are entirely in Norwegian, as opposed to the rest of Darkthrone's discography where only a couple of songs on each album, if any, feature Norwegian lyrics. It is also worth mentioning that the lyrics for the last four tracks that appear on Transilvanian Hunger were written by fellow Norwegian Black Metal musician Varg Vikernes, creator of Burzum and ex-bassist for Mayhem.
As is the case with many Black Metal classics, some will have you believe that Transilvanian Hunger is hyped, overrated and "trendy", when the truth of the matter is that claiming that Transilvanian Hunger is "trendy" is in fact a pretentious trend itself. These are probably the same people that later go out of their way to find the most obscure post-avantgarde-electro-pop-black-metal-new-age-whatever bands just for the sake of feeling superior and being different from everybody else. Simply ignore these hipster fucktards and enjoy Transilvanian Hunger for what it is, Darkthrone's finest album and one of the genres most defining and iconic works ever.
Basically, Transilvanian Hunger is just about epic enough for you to feel the frozen Norwegian forests, aggressive enough for you to feel the ancient hatred towards christianity, and downright raw and gritty enough for you to feel the essence of Norwegian Black Metal itself. It combines all the right ingredients together flawlessly to produce a perfect Black Metal album, and despite the initial aura of sinister negativity and misanthropy that Transilvanian Hunger gives off at first glance, it is actually filled with equal amounts of uplifting and inspiring moments.
What other albums sound similar to this?
To find similar albums to Transilvanian Hunger, you can check out any of Darkthrone's other classics from the same era such as A Blaze In The Northern Sky, Under A Funeral Moon, Ravishing Grimness or Panzerfaust, all of which share the same characteristics, each being executed in a slightly different manner. As far as venturing into other Black Metal band's discographies, be sure to check out any of Burzum's early albums, Nargaroth's Prosatanica Shooting Angels, Horna's Sanojesi Äärelle, Judas Iscariot's Thy Dying Light, Armagedda's The Final War Approaching and Deathspell Omega's Inquisitors Of Satan, although you will find Transilvanian Hunger's influence in countless other albums by Black Metal bands from all corners of the globe.
Some other bands off the top of my head that you should give a shot for that authentic Darkthrone feel are Tuman, Astrofaes, Old Wainds and Sapthuran.
In a nutshell...
Transilvanian Hunger is one of Black Metal's most defining and quintessential albums, with a perfect balance of hypnotic riffs, raw production values, and some truly epic songs that have influenced literally thousands of bands. To top it off, the whole album has an overwhelming feel of purity, gritty authenticity and coldness which has never been quite been equaled.
Site Admin - BestBlackMetalAlbums.com
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