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The Return of Darkness and Evil
Transilvanian Hunger - Darkthrone
Member Name: Nihilus
Transilvanian Hunger - Darkthrone
Advantages: Greatest sound and compositions in this genre of metal ever.
Disadvantages: Not to be listened by anyone whois not interested in it's extreme concept.
What is black metal? The mere mention of that words will probably get you, even from the most distinguished art critics, either a disinterested "oh some extremist heavy metal pseudo genre made by scandinavian adolescants" kind of response or a complete silence accompanied by a frowned raising of the eyebrows conveying something like "Now why are you asking me something like THAT?".
And yes, that scandinavian underground teenage movement did not earn it's reputation for nothing after all. To keep it short, some alienated teens in Norway between the years 1990-1993 inspired by obscure heavy metal bands like Venom or Bathory, occultism, medieval fantasy, B movies and horror comics, assaulted homosexuals and immigrants, desecrated cemeteries, burned churces, killed each other and also made some music in the process, too. Doesn't sound exactly what you'd like to protect your children from? Well, that's what all good families and the media thought at the time in Norway, reviling at he young "Satanists" in horror. After almost 15 years, some things seem to be different. Black metal has it's share in every respected record shop, bands play in festivals in front of thousands of people and sign to major labels like Sony, while every new face in the avant-garde/post/prog scene does not forget to mention in interviews something along the lines of "We're really openminded! We even listen to a lot of black metal!"
The answer will be short and predictable: actually a lot of it was good music, and music in fact that was unheard until then. Darkthrone are the most widely respected and influentive band, it's them that started what is usually called "the second wave of Norwegian black metal" with their stunning debut of 1991 "Ablaze in the Northern Sky" maybe one of the 10 more shocking albums of all time. A fiery wave of storming drums, hellish vocals and cold, hateful guitars that created the typical black metal sound (even out of the Swedish band Bathory, the first to at least create a first impression of it). Well, basically all hell broke loose since then in Norway, with every youngster of a darkened soul trying to give his own variation of the style. We will not go any further with the historical references since this is an album review after all, even though this music can hardly be understood and justified without it's backround.
This third album of Darkthrone was written in the midst of the aftermath of the initial "hell-breaking" when most of the guys that took the ideology of the "movement" too serious were already behind bars or under the ground. The two individuals that consist of Darkthrone were not really of this kind: it seems their grand scheme had to do with producing the most negative, raw and primordial music ever heard ever before. Transilvanian Hunger is exactly this. It's an album recorded (supposedly) crudely in a four track recorder, with methods as opposed as possible to convenient and typical music production. What Darkthrone want to show is not beaty, but ugliness, it is not love but hate, it is not hope but terror. So what most people whould think of as undesired is used and in fact in extremes in this album. Trying to define a little more specifically how can that sound, the music is terribly monotonous. The drums keep banging the same rythym throughout the album with little variation, which is the so called "blastbeat", an as fast as possible rythym in which the snare drum and the bass drum with the high hat are played consequitively, in an effort to create an audible chaos. The guitars are drowning in a mud of distortion but in a completely different sense than in all other heavy metal sound. Here the mids and the high frequencies are much more higher and a lot of reverb is used, resulting in a frozen, sorrowful tone seeming to came from a great distance. The actual guitar playing could be compared to the performance of string instruments like the greek bouzouki, where the notes are being played fastly and constantly without pauses (known as tremolo picking), resulting in a wall of sound and distortion which serves the aesthetic of the music rather well. The actual musical themes range from cold depressive melodies to dissonant, psychotic ones and even some riffs with a strong, powerful character standing as epic conclusions to the songs. Concerning the vocals, yes you guess right we don't have any opera crescendos but screams full of hate and horror. Lyrical aspects of the album range from vampirical themes, stripped from any romantic references but the unbearable isolation and the burning hate of the vampire, to tales of dark norwegian folklore and to the omnipotent in black metal references to the fallen angel and the ideology he's supposed to represent.
However averse or disgusted one "normal" person might be with such concepts, it is probably impossible though to stay unaffected by the music. That's because an amazing amount of spiritidness and even poeticness is amounted in this work. Darkthrone capture the tragedy and failure of man and re-establish the atavistic connection of art with the psyche; one will experience emotions that he would not until something of a similar nature would happen to them. Above all alse these eight terribly minimalistic odes to negativism are a gallery of thoughts forbidden and unknown to the common folk. It is not required or even suggested that everybody should taste them, but for those that are curious, this album shall always stand as a momument of whatever dark, but at the same time deep and poetic in art.
Summary: And abyssal sound and an unprecedented inspiration make this the best black metal album ever.