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Darkthrone - Too Old, Too Cold

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Artist: Darkthrone

Album: Too Old, Too Cold

Label: Peaceville

Review date: Jan. 29, 2006

“[U.K. label Peaceville] was like: ‘What the fuck is this shit?’” said a shitfaced Fenriz, alternating long swallows of Ringnes Lager with drags on an omnipresent cigarette. The “shit” was to be 1992’s A Blaze in the Northern Sky; a major departure from the Death Metal laden Soulside Journey released a year prior, with punk’s three chords cracked open and beaten lifeless by Fenriz’ relentless battery. A perfect soundtrack for the landscape: Bone white snow covered the ground; piles of snowdrift and ice crept up the sides of a cottage. Fenriz and bandmate Nocturno Culto continued to talk with each other about Darkthrone’s failures and successes with Peaceville, their breath billowing out in cold clouds, their modest clothing looking woefully inadequate in the presence of a harsh winter yield. “They were saying: ‘It sounds so weak; I was like, this is what fuckin’ Black Metal sounds like, man,” continued Fenriz, another swallow of beer, another drag. It’s a great moment of Spinal Tap style cinema verité, two drunken rockers videotaping each other, interviewing each other, arguing band minutiae, scene minutiae; laying bare the basics of Black Metal, its fundamentals, as Fenriz reveals over and over again: “Hellhammer, old Bathory,” another swallow of Ringnes.

Apparently Darkthrone and Peaceville have reconciled; group hugs and hearty handshakes giving way to a limited edition box set, Preparing for War, replete with aforementioned DVD interview; an EP, Too Old, Too Cold, and the forthcoming full-length, The Cult is Alive. If the EP is any indication, this could be the band’s best work since 1995’s Panzerfaust. Significantly, the two recordings share no resemblance; Too Old, Too Cold – much like Darkthrone’s last full-length, Sardonic Wrath – wears a weighty hardcore/punk influence, mixing the grizzled ompah of Motorhead and G.B.H. with the primitive violence of hardcore outfits like G.I.S.M., The Accused, or English Dogs.

For the title track – and nearly the remainder of the EP – Nocturno’s guitar is spread over the mix, a treble heavy buzz that confuses itself with Fenriz’ raucous hi-hats, casually stretching out into strutting leads. “You call your metal ‘black?’ It’s fucking lame and weak,” he taunts, Fenriz propelling the song forever forward, his drumming a potent mixture of Phil “Filthy Animal” Taylor and Chuck Biscuits. Nocturno and Fenriz rarely slow, rambling through a hilarious cover of Siouxsie Sioux’s “Love in a Void”; with Nocturno’s anguished baritone bumping into Fenriz’ clumsily clubbed drums, it ends up sounding like the U.K. Subs trying in vain to pin down a Germs tune. The finest cut is closer “Graveyard Slut,” a nearly perfect paean to coital rumblings in stone gardens. There’s even a guitar ‘solo,’ which is actually just pure noise wank, the same sort of atonal fracture that Quorthon littered all over the first Bathory full-length.

They have already begun, and it’s probably best to ignore the cries regarding authenticity. As Black Metal spirals into a contest to see which outfit can proffer the lowest fidelity recording with the least availability – characteristics that the American “noise” lot are all too cozy with – Darkthrone eschews trend for personal preference, holding early AC/DC, ’70s punk rock, and – yes, “Hellhammer, old Bathory” – close to their heart.

By Stewart Voegtlin

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