Darkthrone – Eternal Hails……
Reviewed: August 2021
Released: 2021, Peaceville Records
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
A new Darkthrone album is always an event, because you’re never really sure “which” Darkthrone you’re getting until you hear it. Across 3 decades, the dynamic duo of Fenriz and Nocturno Culto have charted a musical path purely their own and purely for their own satisfaction – trends or expectations be damned. ETERNAL HAILS…… is no different, it’s an album that’s at times wholly different from anything they’ve done previously (at least across the span of an entire album) and at times exactly what you’d expect, because it’s Darkthrone – duh.
Save for a handful of moments across ETERNAL HAILS…… the 5 new songs are the equivalent of old school Bathory writing a doom album. It’s as raw and as TRVE as you’d expect to hear on any Darkthrone record, but the tunes are intentionally longer and measured in tempo, which is an unexpectedly fresh spin on the band’s creative arc. The opening “His Master’s Voice” enters with a moody intro before launching into a more traditional uptempo riff, but plummets during the chorus and outro providing a clear path of dread into the plodding menace of “Hate Cloak.” As the album’s first single, “Hate Cloak” will probably the track that casual acquaintances will be most familiar with, but it’s a solid indication of the album’s overall vibe. “Wake of the Awakened” and “Voyage to a North Pole Adrift” duel between mid-tempo headbanging riffs and blackened speed metal, with the latter track dropping riffs that could’ve just as easily been on an OG Mercyful Fate album. But the closing “Lost Arcane City of Uppåkra” defies expectations with its balance of trad metal volleys and epic gothic gloominess. The closing parallels of synth and the rhythm guitars continue to rattle in my brain and are a more “artsy” presentation than you’re ready for.
Circling back to my original statement – nobody was asking Darkthrone to make a doom record. They did it because that’s what they were inspired to write at the time, while still making it sound entirely like themselves. You could spin A BLAZE IN THE NORTHERN SKY and ETERNAL HAILS…… back to back and easily discern that it’s the same band on both records, albeit with some age and experience in between them. But as much as I love those early corpse paint records, the output since THE CULT IS ALIVE has proven to be a much more interesting version of the band, and ETERNAL HAILS…… only furthers that sentiment.
Eternal Hails are indeed warranted, as this will be blasting through my speakers for the foreseeable future.