Published Jun 06, 2019Few bands inhabit a state of being that evokes the pure spirit of heavy metal, going back to its very beginnings. But in the wake of Old Star, it is undeniable that Darkthrone are amongst those few. To follow the band from their definitive beginnings back in the '90s second wave of black metal to where they are now, is to traverse genres. For years now, the iconic Norwegian two-piece have continued to shape and reshape themselves, according to no other whim but their own.
Old Star feels like a kindred spirit to 2016's Arctic Thunder, though more refined in every way. The riffs hit harder, phasing between '80s trad metal, doom and just a pinch of that bitter black metal gnarl, or else fusing them together. Take "The Hardship of the Scots," the opening of which sounds like a doomified Judas Priest riff. Guitarist and vocalist Nocturno Culto is obviously only writing the material he wants to listen to, and that comes through as the band dig into these meaty, drawn-out sections, as in "Alp Man," which slows to a pained crawl in the shadow of NC's soaring old-school doom strings. All one can do is give in to the spell and worship at the altar of pure metal majesty.
Fenriz's drum performance is simultaneously stripped-down, yet dynamic. As with Arctic Thunder, the drums never sacrifice their primal, caveman belligerence, but neither do they ever become redundant or repetitive. Through his playing, Fenriz proves that sometimes a little goes a long way.
Darkthrone have maintained an awe-inspiring, arguably unblemished career, simply by doing what they want. The band aren't stuck in the past like so many fans of Transilvanian Hunger-era Darkthone, but instead have been constantly moving back further, getting down to the nitty gritty of what they themselves love about this music. In doing so, Old Star sounds as new as it does born of another epoch, reminding us that though genres and scenes may change, the riff is eternal. (Peaceville)