I’ve never really been a big fan of Darkthrone
. As a black metal fanatic I naturally see that they did a great job creating a sound that has since been permanently made the blueprint of basic black metal, but aside from that, there isn’t a lot in Darkthrone
’s music that elevate them above most other black metal bands. Usually though, there’s something Darkthrone
brings to their music that’s at least worth hearing, if only a little. Under a Funeral Moon
had some killer black metal riffs, for example.
then there’s Panzerfaust
. It’s definitely a Darkthrone
album, but you can sense from their three big albums that they were trying to ease their way into something a little different, what with riffs that almost sound like rock permeating songs like Triumphant
Gleam and Beholding the Throne of Might, although sludgier and crustier. Most of the time, though, the same cold, sharp riffs dominate the album. Since Darkthrone
is known as a creator of extremely dark, lost-in-a-forest-without-GPS atmospheres, I’ll talk about that and the production first.
I want to emphasize that I love lo-fi rawness, being a big fan of Black Cilice
’s album Filosofem, but there is a fine line between raw ugly production that increases the strength of a cold and misanthropic tone, and a raw ugly production that sounds lame. This album hovers dangerously on this line at all times. The image in my mind of a wild and untamed mountain covered in towering trees constantly battles with the image of a group of half-drunk teens pounding away sloppily on their instruments in their mother’s basement. In many instances Darkthrone
shows ignorance towards production set-up. I’ll give a few examples of what I mean. The first big issue for me is the way the instruments all decrease in volume each time Nocturno Culto belches out his dirty yells. This is incredibly distracting, especially seeing as it is most prevalent on what would otherwise be the most atmospheric song on the album, En Vind Av Sorg
do the instruments fade in and out like this? And
why is it that this only seems to happen on some tracks, and not on others? Speaking of which, has anyone paid attention to the production from one song to the other? It fluctuates dramatically, and the volume of each instrument swaps. The drums and vocals are much too loud compared to the drums at times. When the production is going good, such as in Quintessence
, the guitars are sludgy and evil sounding and the drums and vocals are in a good balance. Through
most of the album, Nocturno Culto’s moaning tired yelling voice eclipses the music, which is especially detrimental considering he seems completely weak here. I am almost positive he has a cold or hay fever, because his voice comes close to cracking here and there and sometimes he seems to be on the verge of breaking down into a coughing fit. Maybe he’s smoked one too many Marlboros, who knows. He was certainly a lot better in the previous albums. I understand that he is going for a different, deeper style than on the other black metal albums, but his deep guttural performance on Soulside Journey
was truckloads better. Aside from these problems, Panzerfaust
has a pretty good raw black metal tone going for it with plenty of crust and bitter, pounding drums. The static level is pretty decent, sounding like a strong ice wind, safe from overtaking the instruments.
All of the problems that are here make the atmosphere of the better parts suffer as a consequence. Coincidentally, the atmosphere only seems present on the songs with Norwegian titles. On the English songs I don’t feel like I’m being sucked away into a distant land devoid of human life but full of twisted trees. I don’t feel much of anything. Most of the riffs on here don’t really do much for me, to be frank. Yes, the lead riff in En Vind Av Sorg
is a great black metal riff, harsh but still maintaining a good melody, and Hans Siste Vinter’s lead would have been good, had it not been repeated an absurd amount of times. The sludgy and chuggy meat riffs in the English songs seem lifeless to me, having the quality of a group of kids who want to sound like early Celtic Frost
. I have heard much, much better from this band. Their heavily-distorted, slowed-down rock riffs in Panzerfaust
would be filler on most of their other albums. Sure, the guitar tone is good, but it can’t save stale riffs. Even when the song is fast and furious, pummeling and dirty, it’s held back by production flaws, over-repetition, and Nocturno Culto’s desperately tired voice.
In spite of these flaws, there are some good aspects to Panzerfaust
. As a whole, I do get a lot of a nitty-gritty dark feel from it, and the occasional listen to the album is alright, but I find that many sections are quite listless and without direction. Much of the time when Fenriz decides to stretch a riff for two minutes, I feel like he’s doing this because he can’t think of anything else to do, as opposed to him repeating himself for the sake of atmosphere. I know I’m making an assumption, but I think Darkthrone
was running low on fuel by this point, unable to come up with enough good ideas to pack into a full album. The fact that Fenriz had to ask Varg Vikernes to write the lyrics for Quintessence
, and that Fenriz recycled a riff from his side project Storm as the main riff for the same track, is quite telling. Even when Darkthrone
start playing a good riff, the feeling from me is bittersweet because I just know that they’re going to play it again and again and again and again like it’s the be-all-end-all of amazing riffs. I can handle the repetition alright on Quintessence
and En Vind Av Sorg
, but that’s because the songs seem to steadily push forward, and the riffs in question are suitable to be repeated for a while without becoming stale. Quintessence
also falls into a long, winding riff about in the middle of its run time that works really well in support of the song, but unfortunately when this section ends it’s right back to the same riff that was already in a Storm song (and it was used better in that instance).
Snø Og Granskog
is the final track, and I have to say it’s the best. It’s very different and strange for Darkthrone
and shows that somewhere deep inside they have a soft spot for pushing boundaries, which I’m sure they exploited on their later albums (to their detriment or benefit I can’t say, as I’ve never listened to them). The synths in this last track are eerie, and they create a deep, cavernous space penetrated by a high droning noise and Fenriz’ much-appreciated baritone voice. After thirty-five minutes of passable black metal, Snø Og Granskog
is like an oasis and a great note to go out on. The way high notes are gradually introduced to the melody and the way the drums build ominously is pretty awesome. It really makes me wonder why Darkthrone
didn’t integrate these progressive elements into the rest of the music.
is a very mixed bag of a black metal album—a competent, if not average, black metal record bogged down by a few too many weak moments and poor decisions. There is a fair-sized handful of decent material here, and if I’m in a passive mood it’s an alright listen, but in terms of creativity and ambition, there’s not too much here. I would recommend listening to Snø Og Granskog
, En Vind Av Sorg
, but the other songs are pretty much dead weight with a few shining moments here and there.
Though not without its memorable moments, Panzerfaust
mostly falls under the radar.