Darkthrone | ‘Circle The Wagons’
Darkthrone are now deeply wedded to their new style. It’s amazing that people still seem surprised by it.
This is the band, after all, that went from ‘Soulside Journey’ to ‘A Blaze In The Northern Sky’ – and it’s also a band that retained, even through the heyday of their black metal, a independently minded and sardonic sense of humour about the whole enterprise. The folly was ours for not seeing it.
What they’re doing now has been largely satisfying, but certainly hit and miss. Each album of their newly crusty, rough metal outings has had definite winners (‘Canadian Metal’), but has been sullied slightly by a sense of Must Try Harder. Which is ironic, given that’s exactly what they’re trying not to do.
The reason people feel that way though is because under the sloppy delivery and faux dont-care performances, you know – indeed you can feel – that the band desperately love this stuff. You can hear it in their renewed enthusiasm and wry, funny lyrics.
It takes a few spins, but ‘Circle The Wagons’ is full of superb songs. They’ve taken this deadly seriously, and it’s resulted in several excellent tracks – alongside some new, can-crushing standards.
They’ve started trying. They’ve left the sloppiness behind and started writing genuine, and even reasonably serious, old metal songs.
There’s a huge Voivod influence. Just check ‘Stylized Corpse’, which creeps along in a dark fug of its own foul mist. It’s one of the album’s standout tracks, and shows the underlying singwriting talent that Darkthrone never lost for a moment.
They’ve gotten a lot more determined, and you can hear it in here. ‘Running For Borders’ is a lot more serious in feel, more considered, and a fine example of vintage metal.
Elsewhere, tracks like ‘Those Treasures Will Never Befall You’, ‘Circle The Wagons’ and ‘Black Mountain Totem’ show how determined they are to simply kick out classic 80’s metal in shameless obeisance to the format.
It’s in this regard that the lo fi production really works; it recalls the productions of old albums where bands simply played tight and together in rooms. It’s all the more powerful for it.
That humour is always present though. If there’s a new beer drinking anthem, and this is now the band that excells at them, it’s ‘I Am The Working Class’. Once again Fenriz has outdone himself with a slap in the face to daft black metal elitism, cocking a snook to the legions who took their cues from Darkthrone in the first place.
I’d call ‘Circle The Wagons’ a pretty mandatory purchase. The arch sarcasm of the whole thing disguises their determination and dedication to proper old metal. They want you to like this, as much as they’d never admit it. They wouldnt have written songs this honest, catchy or brilliant otherwise.
Buy it, both for the car and for the hearth.
4.2 / 5 – Earl Grey ::: 02/03/10