Released: 2012, Peaceville Records
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
While it’s true that there are other black metal bands that pre-date Darkthrone, it’s also true that their 1992 sophomore release A BLAZE IN THE NORTHERN SKY was unquestionably the blueprint for the black metal genre as we know it today. It’s hard to believe that it was 20 years ago that I first popped this cassette into my stereo, but my feelings about this album remain the same today as they were two decades ago; A BLAZE IN THE NORTHERN SKY is black metal’s finest hour. Every riff, every trademark associated with what you know about black metal today can trace its roots to this album, that’s a fact. And the six songs on the album sound just as uncompromisingly raw and downright scary at times now as they did then; evil doesn’t age, it just gets more evil.
To commemorate the 20th anniversary of this landmark release, Darkthrone and Peaceville Records have reissued A BLAZE IN THE NORTHERN SKY in a 2 CD special edition that’s sure to make fanboys smear their corpsepaint with tears of joy. CD 1 is the album as you know it and love it. No remixes, no remaster, just the original bleak, cold musical onslaught as it was intended to be heard. I’m not going to bore you with a review of the original six songs, because that’s a waste of time for both of us. These tunes are exceptional in their original form, and you should just accept that.
CD 2 contains commentary from Fenriz on top of the original tracks, sharing memories of the recording experience, inspiration for the each song, dissecting riffs, and drum patterns; it’s a kind of “Behind the Music” for black metal fans. And as much as I thought I knew about this band and this album, hearing Fenriz speak to the guts of each track was riveting. From the Bathory and Celtic frost influences, to the incorporation of punk rock drum patterns, to the fact that much of what you hear was originally intended to sound like traditional death metal, to the amps used to record the guitars…it’s an amazing insight into a classic record.
But wait, there’s more! The whole thing comes in a GORGEOUS hardbound digi-book format; complete with expanded liner notes and some great hi gloss photos of Darkthrone in their prime. Additionally, there’s a video interview with Nocturno Culto and Fenriz from 2003 on top of everything else. Sufficed to say folks, this is 110% the right way to do a proper reissue. So many reissues are just the same album touched up with some spit and polish, but this 20th anniversary edition of A BLAZE IN THE NORTHERN SKY is an entirely new way to experience and engage in the album, and is worth every cent of its sticker price (which is completely reasonable, for what it’s worth). Whether you’re already a fan of Darkthrone or have ever been curious to hear what all the fuss is about, this is the kind of release that I cannot endorse enough.