Not that I would want to subject myself to the hair-splitting involved, but if I had to give you an example of "true metal", it would be Darkthrone's The Underground Resistance. Raw, unpretentious, and dark as the coldest Norwegian Fjord, The Underground Resistance combines all the elements that gave heavy metal its original glory. Yet at the same time, the many elements of Darkthrone are present here as well. From the fist-pumping grimness of their recent Crust-Punk phase, to the legendary and genre-defining glory of their Black Metal years, and perhaps even a few very faint echoes of their early Death Metal beginnings. Taken as a whole piece of heavy metal artwork, Fenriz and Nocturno Culto paint a picture that shows the pair making only the music they want to make and have a hell of a great time doing it.
Darkthrone, masters of the almighty riff, breathe a fiery masterstroke with the album's opener Come Warfare, The Entire Doom. With their recent punk-metal weaponry in tow, Darkthrone plays the song like a modernized version of their classic Paragon Belial, perhaps with machine guns mounted on top this time. In one track, the band manages to pack more memorable riffs and grooves than many bands do in a lifetime. With its self-consciously classic sound, The Underground Resistance is nothing less than the return of the ghosts of heavy metal past. The album is haunted by many ghosts whose voices can be heard throughout: In the Sign of Evil era-Sodom, Hellhammer and Celtic Frost, Show No Mercy-era Slayer, Exodus, Voivod and a myriad of other influences. Somehow, the album has both a dynamic, multifaceted feel, and yet possesses a mysterious cohesion that holds it all together. When you have a Mercyful Fate send-up like Leave No Cross Unturned and the almost Misfits-esque singalong of Valkarie on the same record, cohesion of any kind is quite an achievement. In a way, all of these ghosts come back from the dead perfectly embody the album's brilliant title (Hell, their last album even had a song called "I am The Graves of The 80's").
That said, I would not want you to walk away from this review thinking Darkthrone a pair of bitter, heavy metal reactionaries. Not a bit of it. Over the course of its recording, the pair has taken their characteristic sound, resurrected the spirit of their brothers-in-arms and pointed the way forward. In an era where metal's genetic code can be traced to endless styles and subgenres, Darkthrone shows that the original strain is still very much alive and looking to the future to defeat all in its path. The Underground Resistance shows a culmination of years of evolution and refinement of the band's sound: unleashed from any orthodoxy and free to explore wherever it wishes.
No nonsense, no limits – all horns all headbanging: The Underground Resistance.
Favorite songs: "Come Warfare The Entire Doom", "Dead Early", "Leave No Cross Unturned", "Valkyrie"