ALBUM REVIEW: Darkthrone – Eternal Hails

If you can rely on one thing it’s that legendary Norwegian twosome Darkthrone will continue to not give a flying fig about convention or what people think about them until the day they die. No live shows since 1996, an early decisive leap from death metal to black metal, a total lack of adherence to any kind of rule book, and a succession of albums which basically read as unadulterated love letters dedicated to the music on which they grew up. If you don’t get Darkthrone by now then you never will.

The duo’s love of Bathory, Celtic Frost and Motörhead as well as genres like speed metal and crust punk has been well documented but it’s doom metal acts such as Candlemass which drew the band’s attention, firstly on 2019’s Old Star and now on latest studio offering, Eternal Hails (Peaceville Records).

While lengthy songs are nothing new to Darkthrone, this is the band’s first full length release to feature only five tracks, none of which last under seven minutes. And while demonstrably aggressive and firmly rooted in (the slower side of) classic black metal, the album bears only a passing acquaintance to their usual brand of fast, slashing metal and punk progressions with only the hefty groove of ‘Wake of the Awakened’ maintaining any kind of brisk pace throughout its eight and a half minute Venom inspired riffing.

As you would expect, the Celtic Frost influence is literally everywhere on the album. You simply can’t move for tripping over a Tom G Warrior style vocal or a blackened Hellhammer riff. However, the menacing ‘Hate Cloak’ presents you with the demonic, crawling offspring of Black Sabbath and Candlemass while opener ‘His Masters Voice’ is one of the most accessible things Fenriz and Nocturno Culto have ever recorded while still sounding like they’ve been listening to War and Pain (Metal Blade/Roadrunner) era Voivod.

The sprawling nine minute ‘Voyage to a Northpole Adrift’ builds and surges as well as featuring one of the catchiest melodic riffs you’re likely to hear this year. The upbeat ‘Lost Arcane City Of Uppakra’ closes the record but it isn’t until the brooding, atmospheric finale that the song really leaves its mark.

Anyone worried that the band’s move from Necrohell II (a portable eight track in an old bomb shelter) to Chaka Khan Studio in Oslo would result in a sudden and unwanted upturn sound quality can breathe a sigh of relief. Although clearly not recorded inside the same rusty biscuit tin as albums like A Blaze in the Northern Sky or Transilvanian Hunger (Peaceville), Eternal Hails still sounds as raw, austere and uncluttered as anything they have produced in the last twenty years. A simple but effective slab of doomcrust from a band who really don’t care what anyone thinks but themselves. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Buy the album here:

7 / 10