Sunday, February 8, 2009

Darkthrone- Soulside Journey

This is a hard album to review, because while Darkthrone are one of my favorite bands, this is THE album they had to repudiate in order to become great. That doesn't mean that it is flawed on its own terms, but I think it was a stroke of genius for Darkthrone to realize that churning out contemporary Swedish Death Metal was a dead-end, and that the first wave of black metal (Bathory, Celtic Frost) was not yet conceptually exhausted, but needed to be retrieved as a living aesthetic.

Soulside Journey is revelatory for a few reasons: the outstanding production, Fenriz's technical drumming abilities, Nocturno Culto here going by his given name (Ted), and the generally "Swedish" sound of things--all of this would go out the window immediately with their next album, the ugly, ugly A Blaze in the Northern Sky. (Although, weirdly, they kept the same logo.) Overall this album is similar to the early At the Gates sound, but less interesting and a bit "doomier" (I use this term against my will).  They try to keep it interesting, but there generally is not much going on, and it is too straight-forward for my tastes. If you are considerably more of an Entombed fan than I (it's possible!), this might be just the thing for you.  

It could be less boring, and the first song is by far the best, but there is a place in the world for this album and its handful of cool parts. But what one most misses in this early work is the nihilistic irony that really make Darkthrone the great band we know and love.

Score: 3 stars/5 (***) 
Best songs: "Cromlech," "Soulside Journey," "Sempiternal Sepulchrality" (bass solo!)

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