You really have to commend Darkthrone. Never ones to pander, the hellish duo of Fenriz and Nocturno Culto have long left the cold black metal sound behind, the sound that brought them to the ball and have since traversed different plains from punk (like on The Cult is Alive and F.O.A.D.) to traditional heavy metal. It’s the latter that characterises their 15th full-length The Underground Resistance, with classic NWOBHM guitar licks pinched for good measure and mostly clean, wailing vocals.
If there’s something that has to be said it’s that Darkthrone are an entirely selfish entity. Fenriz and Nocturno Culto have never cared about opinions and thoughts on the music of Darkthrone, except for each other’s. It lays as heady testament to many bands, both their senior and junior that bend and mould with the times based not on their own desires but those of others. Make no mistake though Darkthrone have contorted many times and it’s been to the chagrin of many fans, with a middle finger firmly in their faces, all the while with a separate horde of the faithful waiting with bated breath for the next contortion.
King Diamond and Mercyful Fate are just some of the obvious inspirations to be heard on this album with some of the grimness of Celtic Frost, meanwhile, there’s a flavour of NWOBHM’s gallop poking through some of the crevices too, but also the coarser edges of the underground haven’t been totally abandoned either. Not black metal though, more of a nod to times gone by for Darkthrone. This appears to be the beginning of another new chapter for Fenriz and Culto.
The Underground Resistance exhibits a band having fun, even if fun isn’t the word they’d use themselves to describe this record, but the carefree attitude is rather affecting. This is both to its strength and detriment, where the band definitely sound confident in their combined abilities to pull this off, and they do for the most part, a track like ‘Lesser Men’ sees a crack emerge in the foundation, relying on some classic hallmarks too much.
‘Leave No Cross Unturned’ is a microcosm of the record’s strengths and flaws, spread out over its 13 minutes. Its title, though somewhat cheesy, lays out exactly what you’re getting; unabashed heavy metal from the dark side. The only place it should come from of course. While the chorus is huge, it can drag between verses occasionally, only to burst again into that unforgettable chorus. Perhaps knocking a couple of minutes off this one could have made it all the more impressive. Nevertheless, it’s an intoxicating closer.
The Underground Resistance might not be Darkthrone’s finest record ever and maybe time will be kind to it. For now, it’s not exactly essential. But one thing that’s certain is that it is another firm middle finger in our faces.
The Underground Resistance is out on Peaceville.