The days of Blaze in the Northern Sky, Under a Funeral Moon, and Transilvanian Hunger are long over-- this was signaled by the deeply retro stylings of Panzerfaust, and its incredible theatrical irony. One may read this back into the more "serious" albums as one likes. Panzerfaust is a triumph, but it is only with Hate Them that Darkthrone got back on its feet (after three decent but irrelevant albums)--and each subsequent record has been more of a murky, ramshackle, half-serious punk album.
The deadly boring "cult" current black metal fans-- and by the way guys, give it up, it's SO over-- having given way to shitty indie rock fans-- and by the way guys, give it up, you are unquestionably late for anything interesting in black metal-- these demographics will never understand the new direction of Darkthrone, because this album has zero in common with "black metal" and only strives to entertain and throw a bunch of neat parts at you. None of the depressive bedroom emo (Xasthur) which passes for black metal these days.
What I love most about this record is... the great riffs. But what I love second most is the feeling of "fun" that they must have had, and succeed in communicating through music--the last thing one expects from this genre in 2009. And so it easily ranks with the great albums by Venom or Bathory: thus miraculously reinventing and reinvigorating black metal by avoiding all the calcified trappings of its current sorry state.
Score: 4.5/5 stars (**** 1/2)
Best songs: "The Winds they call the Dungeon Shaker," "Oath Minus," "Hanging out in Haiger"