After an excursion to the crusty, punk roots of black metal with 2013’s The Underground Resistance, seminal black metal duo Fenriz and Nocturno Culto make their return with Arctic Thunder.
As one of the central figures of the genre, Darkthrone made a name for themselves with blisteringly cold and lo-fi releases such as A Blaze in the Northern Sky, Under a Funeral Moon and Transilvanian Hunger, that would shape the traditional “grim and frostbitten” sound of second wave black metal and guide large parts of the sprouting scene in the early 90s as well as making Darkthrone a hugely inspirational project for many years to come.
The norwegian duo consisting of Fenriz and Nocturno Culto hardly ever slowed down in their almost three decades long career. Though they do not release an album or two every year anymore like they did twenty years ago, Darkthrone still put out releases at a constant rate and now, three years after their last release, they have come back with their seventeenth album in the form of Arctic Thunder.
The album was announced on short notice and in rather simple fashion on the band’s Facebook page at the beginning of August of this year with a release scheduled for the 14th of October. Fenriz named a now long defunct norwegian thrash and heavy metal band as the namesake for the title of the album and heavy metal in general seems to be a big inspiration for the music on this album as well.
Arctic Thunder is a rather classic Darkthrone release with a sound reminiscent of their late 90s/early 2000s releases such as Ravishing Grimness. The songwriting is stoic and uncompromising though the compositions on this record are a bit more ambitious than they were on the albums they seem to take from.
Fenriz himself describes Arctic Thunder as “more serious and primitive than usual” which is certainly the case, especially when compared to its predecessor The Underground Resistance, an album that saw the band adapt an unusual sound, featuring a lot of clean vocals by Fenriz paired with crustpunk instrumentals and heavy metal influences that ended up alienating some of the band’s fans whereas others, including myself, endorsed it.
As usual for me with Darkthrone albums, Arctic Thunder took a bit of getting into at first. Darkthrone albums have that strange quality of not being very impactul but always drawing me back in. The way the band just marches on, one song after another, completely uncompromising and apathetic, leaves the listener no choice but to go along or be left behind.
The songs on this album are generally quite cohesive in style and rarely break out of character save for sections like the misanthropic, heavy and gloomy second half of Inbred Vermin and the atmospheric background guitars in the intro to Deep Lake Tresspass. Darkthrone mostly stick to mid-paced, heavy metal inspired compositions that shift into slow tremolo-picked sections for the more intense moments. The unfortunately quite short guitar solos that can be found throughout the album are another nod to heavy metal and shine a bit of light into the cold, boreal feeling of this album.
Overall, Darkthrone deliver a quite enjoyable bundle of songs with Arctic Thunder, but I can’t say that any one song can really reach the level of impact or memorability of songs like Leave No Cross Unturned, Transilvanian Hunger, En Vind Av Sorg or The Claws of Time. As a whole, i is a consistently enjoyable and classic Darkthrone album that will certainly entertain fans of the band.