DARKTHRONE
"The Underground Resistance"

(Peaceville)

01. Dead Early
02. Valkyrie
03. Lesser Men
04. The Ones You Left Behind
05. Come Warfare, the Entire Doom
06. Leave No Cross Unturned

RATING: 9/10

As the entire Norwegian black metal brouhaha of the early 1990s fades deeper and deeper into history and myth, blurring the fine line between which incidents were horrifyingly true or imaginatively apocryphal, almost all of the bands either involved or born out of those events have likewise moved well beyond its original tenets - religious, philosophical, musical, etc.

This is why DARKTHRONE likewise remains as pure and direct a thread leading back to that musically seminal place and time - as much because of their consistent productivity in the 20 years since, as their refusal to get too involved in the competitive posturing and criminal behavior that so many of their peers allowed to get in the way of what truly mattered: the music.

Yes, DARKTHRONE too has evolved and experimented with different sounds and styles over the years (don't forget they were a true death metal band for one album even before spearheading the Norse black metal aesthetic with 1992's "A Blaze in the Northern Sky"), and left quite a few fans baffled with their recent spate of crust punk LPs, but their allegiance to down and dirty underground sounds throughout still separated them from avant-garde-embracing countrymen such as EMPEROR, ULVER, SATYRICON, MAYHEM, etc.

Now, with the release of DARKTHRONE's fifteenth studio album, 2013's "The Underground Resistance", Fenriz and Nocturno Culto have dug themselves deeper into virtually pure heavy metal; and despite maintaining their tradition of composing songs separately and then alternating them in sequence through the album, the duo also insists they approached this particular project as a proper album (instead of individually recorded songs assembled into one) for the first time in almost a decade.

Sounds like it too, even though one can easily identify each musician's compositions based on vocal style alone and, to a lesser degree, the fact that Fenriz's songs tend to wear their influences on their sleeves more obviously than Nocturno's, whose contributions also prove a little less diverse as a result.

And so, beginning with Nocturno, both "Dead Early" and "Lesser Man" mine a modern trad/thrash/black metal seam for direct, unfailing inspiration while the expanded "Come Warfare, the Entire Doom" does indeed start out all doom-and-dangerous-like before accelerating into similar sounds as its predecessors.

Fenriz, meanwhile, provides the album's most I'll-matched (but still awesome) song in the aptly named "Valkyrie" and its dutifully majestic Viking metal, then gives notice of his '80s metal roots (complete with piercing scream) on "The Ones You Left Behind", before giving full flight to his fandom across the album's thirteen-minute capper, "Leave no Cross Unturned".

In what initially resembles an open love letter to MERCYFUL FATE, complete with King Diamond-like falsettos, vibratos and growls, the song transitions from a blistering blackened thrash assault to hypnotic four-four warfare a la CELTIC FROST and then back again, to stunning effect.

And, in doing so, it elevates all of "The Underground Resistance" to what one presumes will be a lofty place amidst DARKTHRONE's formidable discography - both in terms of quality and broad appeal for the extreme metal faithful, so long as these remember that the only legacy of Norway's early '90s black metal scene that TRULY matters is the music.

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