July 11, 2018

Darkthrone - Total Death (1996)

Country: Norway
Language: English, Norwegian (Norsk)
Genre: Black Metal
Style: Norwegian Black Metal
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© 1996 Moonfog Productions
Reviewed by Goat for Metal Reviews.com
Controversy follows Darkthrone’s musical output everywhere, but it’s at the point in time that the complaints really start to come in. Following up the rather good Panzerfaust is this; a Total Death of the band’s previous direction, a Total Death of their drive and interest, as some fans assert? It certainly doesn’t help Darkthrone’s case that this album was a collaborative effort, with friends from the Black Metal world contributing on the lyrical front, yet that alone is enough to make this an interesting effort. Anyone with a fairly basic knowledge of the Norwegian scene will be able to recognise the lyrics by their authors – Earth’s Last Picture is some artsy stuff mentioning wolves and is clearly Garm’s work, Ihsahn’s Black Victory Of Death reading like typical latter-era Emperor lyrics (‘Fire! Fire I greet thee/Give life to shadows grim’) whilst you get the expected weirdness from Ved Buens Ende’s Carl-Michael Eide on Blasphemer and some interestingly stream-of-consciousness material from Satyr on The Serpents Harvest.
As for the music itself, it’s taken a turn towards the bottom-end. The bass is quite audible, the production shuffling it forwards, whilst guitars are a wall of noise and drums pound in the distance. To be honest, if you’re not paying attention it blurs into one lengthy song, the bassy morass swallowing most of the interesting melodies to all but the most intense of listeners. Yet there are some worthy moments to be found – Gather For Attack On The Pearly Gates is interestingly epic, the guitar line having a good dose of melancholy and a subtle Thrashing vibe that really should have been stronger throughout. Aside from some headbanging parts on Black Victory Of Death, that track is fairly uninteresting, and really from then on the better sections are buried beneath a mountain of Darkthrone-by-numbers. What highlights there are include the nice speedy riffs of Blasphemer sounding a bit like Aura Noir, and the Doomy Celtic Frostisms of The Serpents Harvest, which twist and turn for a moment before going exactly nowhere, the album finishing just as you realise what a disappointment the whole thing was.
I enjoy quite a lot of Darkthrone’s mid-later output, pre-The Cult Is Alive. They took a turn towards mediocrity for many, but there is gold to be mined if you have the patience to be drawn into the band’s world, and Hate Them and Sardonic Wrath especially have their moments. Total Death, however, despite the rather cool artwork, lacks enough killer and has far too much filler for it to be placed anywhere but near the bottom of the Darkthrone pantheon. The score given is generous.

tags: darkthrone, total death, 1996, flac,


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