By: Owen Coggins
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Released on October 14, 2016 via Peaceville Records
Darkthrone return with the heavily anticipated Arctic Thunder. With the last album released in 2013, this will satisfy fans who have been waiting longer than that for a classic kvlt record.
If you’re interested in reading this review, chances are you’ve already heard ‘Tundra Leech’, the opening track which has been previewed here and there. The riff is instantly a classic, with just as much melodic structure as there is powerfully beaten-out mid-paced rhythm, and little flourishes, fills and bends on the edges of notes here and there. The troglodyte gurgling roar of Nocturno Culto’s absurdly brilliant, darkly charismatic vocals are a triumphant return. With a handful of great riffs thrown into the same song, it’s varied and compelling while smashing the cues you hope for from the Norwegian kings.
In each song there are entrancing sections of pulsing, droning black metal churn, as well as energetic riffs wrestling for your attention. ‘Throw Me Through the Marshes’ is a great example of both, with some old school tuning providing the guitar intrigue while Fenriz’s drumming pinpoints the necessary details to drive the verse along before a gear-change leading into a downhill helter skelter race. ‘Boreal Fiends’ has a more considered beginning, an echoing, almost pensive clean bass riff which returns throughout despite being mirrored with raging versions of the same melody, and then breaking into a sludgy section which stretches out the track.
Overall the record has a classic Darkthrone black metal sound, though there are punkier elements: ‘Burial Bliss’ is fast and furious, setting up a simpler song structure which nevertheless allows the listener to revel in the powerful surge of riffs. Over this there are sort of two rallying versions of Culto singing, competitors or comrades in lurid barking and wide-eye-glaring intensity over the thrashabout. This is repeated on many of the tracks, an effect which is oddly decentring, despite these vocals being incredibly distinctive (not to mention pretty high in the mix compared to some of the band’s previous recordings). It all adds to the aura of grim darkness which, like the album cover, is new and freshly invigorated, yet unmistakably the same legendary black metal Darkthrone of old.