At this point in their lengthy career, there are a couple things about Darkthrone which are automatically true and indubitably awesome. First is that, good or bad or indifferent, Darkthrone is doing whatever the hell they want to do. Musically, this duo has moved into the rarefied air of having nothing to prove to anyone. Long gone is the corpse paint, the leather get-ups and most (but not all) of the scowling.
As a companion of having nothing to prove, the second thing going on with Darkthrone is that they don’t care what anyone thinks about their music. Not you, me or anyone else. They’re making the songs they love, and in an art so thoroughly infiltrated by the machinations of image and presentation, it’s welcome to see a respected artist break free from that.
So what kind of music does Darkthrone love to make? Those who heard the pretty solid “Circle the Wagons” from 2010 know it was an album chock to the gills with crusty, low-rent, down and dirty speed metal, in the most classic proto-thrash styles. This new record “The Underground Resistance” is a six song shotgun blast of the same, with classic speed metal oozing from its homegrown pores. What Darkthrone has done to enhance this effort however, is to progress along the timeline and incorporate much of the signature of early thrash into their speed mix.
There is a difference between thin, crunchy production and “bad” production, a difference often highlighted by the thin veil of intent. While it’s highly subjective and probably unfair, when a band like Darkthrone takes the low road, they tend to get a pass on the merit of their assumed artistic integrity. Such it is with “The Underground Resistance,” as the duo uses their chosen style to enhance and highlight the bitter crackle of their guitar and drum.
There are also two notable trends developing on the album that probably should be mentioned. The first, which is really neither here or there, is that for classically influenced speed metal songs, these cuts are all pretty meaty. They principally average around five minutes, with the last two songs running closer to eight and fourteen. So even at only six cuts, fans are getting a full entrée of Darkthrone and plenty of crusty speed to absorb.
The other trend is noticeable from go, which is what we talked about earlier, is that Darkthrone has really adapted the stereotypical thrash buzzsaw tone into their music. You need not go farther than opener “Dead Early” to see what I’m talking about. Even when Fenriz reached into his upper vocal ranges for “Valkyrie,” the star of the show is still the droning, non-stop guitar tone.
If you can tolerate the production choices, “The Underground Resistance” is both a pretty good listen and a good jumping on point for those who either lost track of Darkthrone, or want to hear them in this newest phrase of their career.