So it's obvious at this point that every time Darkthrone puts out a new album, there will be those "tr00 cvlt" folks who hate everything that came after Transylvanian Hunger crapping all over their "new sound"...and by the way, there really is nothing more evil than - gasp! - intentionally misspelling words on the internet! But I digress; with their newest album, F.O.A.D., Fenriz and Nocturno Culto continue with their Celtic Frost/Motorhead/Sabbath worship that has characterized their sound starting when they decided it was OK for album covers to have color on them. Gone are the blastbeats and arpeggiated minor chords, the all-bloodcurdling-scream vocal style, the raw-to-downright godawful recording quality of Darkthrone's classic period. This does not evoke the images of frostbitten forests and Satanic rituals that they used to; instead, what we have here is beer-swilling, headbanding, leather, denim & spikes METAL, but still retaining that sick death-obsessed evil twist that Darkthrone has always had.
Being a huge fan of those first four albums - Panzerfaust especially - I will say that I really like what these dudes are doing nowadays. There's no way to compare F.O.A.D. to Under A Funeral Moon, and no point in trying; Darkthrone do whatever they want, and at this point they want to pay tribute to the early metal gods who got them (and all of the original Norwegian black metal bands) into this in the first place. As far as the album itself goes, it sure isn't perfect. Lyrically it is often just plain dumb, and musically it is spotty at times. But when it works, as it more often than not does, it works real well. The guitars still have that deathlike distortion to them that you've heard ever since A Blaze In The Northern Sky, just put through a classic metal filter. The opener, "These Shores Are Damned" features some excellent, slightly doomy riffs that would have fit right in on Morbid Tales or To Mega Therion. The next track, "Canadian Metal", is one of the album's highlights, albeit with some pretty unusual (and specific) subject matter. Fenriz sings this one, I believe, although it might as well be Thomas Gabriel Warrior on the microphone. The chorus is a total fist-pumper, and Nocturno Culto even throws in a King Diamond/ Rob Halford-like falsetto wail toward the end! You ain't gonna hear that on the new Marduk album. "The Church of Real Metal" and "The Banners of Old" have some Sabbath-like dirges, and the title track, also sung by Fenriz (this time doing his best Lemmy impression), is a more upbeat thrasher that tells you exactly what you can do if you aren't with Darkthrone. "Splitkein Fever" has a really raw sound that harkens back to the band's early days, but musically doesn't do that much for me; I'd say it's a contender for weakest track on the album. "Raised on Rock" is another one championing the music the guys love, and has a definite Motorhead/ Venom feel. "Pervertor of the 7 Gates" reminds me a bit of Hellhammer's "Triumph of Death", and again showcases some uncannily realistic Tom Warrior imitation. The final song, "Wisdom of the Dead" ends the proceedings on a morbid, dirgey note, reminding potential naysayers that just because the band doesn't recycle the sound of their first four albums, doesn't mean they've turned into Stryper. This isn't gonna earn the band any European Grammy nominations (unlike their friends in Satyricon), but it's tribute music. It's not meant to be groundbreaking, just good, and that it is.
Metal (and Black Metal for that matter) wasn't always about professionalism and maturation, and this is a celebration of that rush of forbidden glee you got when you first heard those songs about sex, drugs, murder and Satan. Sure, Fenriz's attempts to impersonate Lemmy and Tom Warrior might be a little silly, as well as the 8th-grade level of intelligence in a lot of the lyrics, but that's the POINT! None of the classical music keyboard frills or the prog influence that so many BM bands adopted as they grew older. Darkthrone have gone the complete opposite direction, and obviously alienated a lot of their fans. I'm not trying to be one of those elitists who claims to "get" what they're doing, and if you don't like it you just don't understand. I just think it's really refreshing that a Black Metal band - and one of the most revered and influential ones at that - puts out music that is actually fun. That's right, fun. Brutal, raw, evil, stupid fun!
If you have any respect or knowledge of the roots of Black Metal, then at very least you can appreciate this album. If you are "tr00" as you claim and yet dismiss this album as garbage just because it rocks and doesn't simply blast its way into your brain, or because it is so blatantly derivative, then you need to go back to Metal school. Try and tell me Darkthrone's Celtic Frost influence hadn't already shown itself all over Panzerfaust. Try and tell me that Bathory's legendary first album wasn't total Venom worship, and for that matter try and tell me that you could take Venom seriously half the time. Try and tell me Hellhammer didn't sound like an amateurish punk band, and find ONE Mercyful Fate song with a blastbeat. Then maybe I'll change my mind. No wait, I won't. None of that made any of those bands any less great than they were. Darkthrone recognize this greatness, and they play the music they love. If you don't like it, you can...well, see the album title.