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DARKTHRONE's Black Metal Classic Under A Funeral Moon Turns 30

Getting older, getting colder.

Under A Funeral Moon

Darkthrone originally started out as Black Death in 1986, a band put together by Fenriz (Gylve Fenris Nagell) in Kolbotn, Viken Norway. The band, still in their teens, would practice in Fenriz's parents' attic. After releasing a couple of demos, Fenriz and another local Kolbotn native, Nocturno Culto (Ted Skjellum) formed Darkthrone and joined the budding black metal scene in Norway alongside Mayhem and other members of Norway's Black Metal Mafia.

Under a Funeral Moon was Darkthrone's third studio record, and the follow up to their exalted 1992 album, A Blaze in the Northern Sky. A Blaze in the Northern Sky was Darkthrone's first full-length foray into the black metal realm and has long been looked to as not only a critical black metal release, but one of the genre's defining black metal records. In 2002, Darkthrone vocalist Nocturno Culto spoke about his impressions of what black metal is, and isn't. For Culto, black metal isn't about religion, nor is it about Satan. According to Culto, the essence of black metal is more about being in touch with the "dark side of nature" as we all have a dark side "deep within our thoughts." Following its release, Under a Funeral Moon was looked to as a foundational black metal recording, firmly implanted Darkthrone into the genre.

If black metal is your thing (as it should be), you've probably heard the descriptive phrase, "Unholy Trinity" before. As it pertains to Darkthrone, this is a reference to the band's three albums A Blaze in the Northern Sky (1992), Under a Funeral Moon (1993), and Transilvanian Hunger (1994). In the world of black metal, Darkthrone are often categorized as one of the "pioneers" of the black metal sound with this trinity. This is something Fenriz is quick to qualify by example, crediting Bathory, Hellhammer, Venom, Mayhem, Celtic Frost and other bands as the true architects of black metal.

In 1992, Fenriz further defined Darkthrone's sound as "dirty black metal," later adding "we did decent death metal before the black metal stuff, and a lot of great songs after the whole black metal thing as well." So yes, unless you want to disagree with Fenriz (you don't), Darkthrone is a vital part of death metal's dark lexicon despite their only foray into the genre being in 1991 with Soulside Journey.

Darkthrone's death metal days, according to Fenriz, were in 1991 and part of 1992, a time period in Norweigan black metal marred by the suicide of Mayhem vocalist Per Yngve Pelle Ohlin (Dead), and horrific rash of church burnings starting in June 1992. All of which the members of Darkthrone worked to distance themselves from, while keeping their sound bone-chillingly ice cold. 

Under a Funeral Moon doesn't waste any time establishing its grim grip with the record's first track, "Natassja In Eternal Sleep." Written by Nocturno, "Natassja" concerns a satanic witch burned at the stake by Christians, and the booze-fueled lament of her biggest admirer who resurrected her spirit which now lives "inside" him. And the message is firmly aligned with Darkthrone's point of view on Christianity which doesn't necessarily involve cheering on Satan. Here's Nocturno (from a 2002 interview) on the negative effect Christianity had on him growing up in Norway: 

"The history of Norway being forced to be Xtian [Christian] is a really bloody history and the religion itself should be fucking ashamed. I say just fuck Xtainity it's a lot of bullshit. The hate is very strong and very deep. Through all these years with Darkthrone the hate is only stronger because the older you get the more you know."

The cold black metal sound of the album, recorded at Creative Studios in Kolbotn, Norway, was further cultivated by the band's engineer for Under a Funeral Moon, the chilly sounding Vidar Winter. Following his work with Darkthrone, Winter (credited as Vidar on the album), was tapped to create the soundscape for the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway. Winter, in his infinite wisdom, took all suggestions from the band, whatever wish or want it might be, and sonically doubled the output an instrument or vocal track.

When reflecting on the title track of the album, Fenriz calls "Under the Funeral Moon" the "best" jam he ever did during Darkthrone's black metal period describing it as a mix of "Bathory and [Tampa metal band] Hell on Earth." The main riff in "Under a Funeral Moon" was inspired by Polish band Vader and their early demo, Necrolust (1989) which the band found very influential to the overall sound they were summoning for Under a Funeral Moon

In recent years, albums from Darkthrone's lengthy catalog have been reissued. The most recent reissue of Under a Funeral Moon (and one you should hunt down) was in 2021 by the band's long-time label, the black metal-loving Peaceville. Pressed on silver colored vinyl, it also included a poster and an enamel pin with the words "Non Serviam" ("I will not serve"), on it. This phrase is attributed to a passage in the Bible detailing Satan's refusal to serve God.

In addition to the 2021 reissue of Under a Funeral Moon, 2023 brought us a pressing The Wind of 666 Black Hearts Volume 2, featuring Darkthrone rehearsal tracks from 1992 in their most primal form. All of the songs, "Under a Funeral Moon," "Summer Of The Diabolical Holocaust," "Crossing The Triangle Of Flames," "The Dance Of Eternal Shadows," and "Unholy Black Metal" would find their way to Under a Funeral Moon in 1993. 

On a very cool side-note concerning Darkthrone's Under a Funeral Moon, in 2014 a French compilation album Tribute to Darkthrone: Under a Funeral Moon featuring eight sick metal bands from France covering all the songs on Under a Funeral Moon was released. We highly recommend you check it out. 

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