Darkthrone - _Plaguewielder_
(Moonfog, 2001)
by: Alvin Wee (8 out of 10)
Once again a disappointment for punters hoping to point an accusing finger at the album's commercial-looking cover, _Plaguewielder_ serves as a nonchalant reminder of who's who in the spluttering Norse metal scene. Opening with choked whispers a la _A Blaze in the Northern Sky_, "Weakling Avenger" showcases the cleanest production Darkthrone has achieved thus far. Make no mistake, however; the trademark Celtic Frost worship remains, shining surprisingly well through the incisive mix. Nocturno Culto springs no unpleasant _Panzerfaust_ surprises here, sporting his sore throat remarkably well. Musically, _Plaguewielder_ falls between the speed of _Transilvanian Hunger_ and the crunchier _A Blaze..._, with a sound strangely modern yet classic. Not surprising for the enigma that is Darkthrone anyway; few bands in the scene have managed this level of consistency over so many releases without playing themselves into a rut. The six long tracks prove that Darkthrone are capable of more complexity than their trademark monotony gives them credit for, and the variety attained throughout the album points a stout middle finger at their countrymates having to turn techno in search of diversity (read: Dodheimsgard). Long-time followers won't be disappointed with the vinyl version (some say that's the only way to listen to Darkthrone): a lavish gatefold in a brilliant matte finish shows off some unconventional, yet strangely apt cover art. One of the nicer Darkthrone packages, and might just be worth the cutthroat prices Moonfog are charging for their releases.

(article published 14/1/2002)

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