For more than 30 years, Norwegian legends Darkthrone have been blazing a trail not just in the northern sky, but in all of extreme metal. The duo of vocalist/guitarist/bassist Ted “Nocturno Culto” Skjellum and drummer Fenriz have explored a variety of styles over the years while maintaining their own distinctive sound. The band's 17th studio album is Old Star.
This time around, Darkthrone deliver a record that explores styles from black metal to doom to death to thrash. Fenriz thinks that '80s influences are prominent. “As many have focused on the '70s sound over the last 20 years, the mix on our new album has ended up being more '80s than ever,” Fenriz states. “The songs are more metal than ever! Ted's songs have a lot of black metal in them, faster and slower but also doomier parts and reoccurring parts. My songs are more linear written, it’s an ancient '80s underground trick, with breaks, all slow heavy or slow thrash, classic doom or slow death."
Old Star is more eclectic than their last release, 2016's Arctic Thunder. They do a good job of sequencing the tracks, giving things a good flow. Opener “I Muffle Your Inner Choir” launches the album with a fast pace driven by ominous black metal guitars. It slows down midway with doom influences moving to the forefront before speeding back up to a glorious end.
“The Hardship Of The Scots” is the record's longest song at about 7 and a half minutes, and also contains perhaps the disc's catchiest riff. That riff begins the song before the pace slows once again, but then returns. There's also an extended guitar solo and variations of that original riff, making for a memorable track.
The production on Old Star is anything but lo-fi. Recorded in the band's studio and produced by Nocturno Culto, the mix was done by Sanford Parker (Voivod, Yob, Nachtmystium). It maintains the edge and aggression Darkthrone are known for but has a clarity that gives things a timeless sound.
With six songs clocking in at less than 40 minutes, Darkthrone don't overstay their welcome, but the half dozen tracks they have crafted will have staying power. There's quality throughout, with the penultimate track “Duke Of Gloat” hearkening back to black metal's heyday while closer “The Key Is Inside The Wall” blends doomy riffs and some punk moments. Like the rest of the album, the tempos ebb and flow and the riffs never abate.
At this point in their career, Darkthrone's legacy is long since cemented. With Old Star, the dynamic duo continue to create compelling music on their terms, satisfying many generations of extreme music fans.