Darkthrone - _The Cult Is Alive_
(Peaceville, 2006)
by: James Montague (7.5 out of 10)
For those who've continued following the antics of the mischievous duo beyond their archetypal unholy trinity of black metal classics and through to this, their twelfth album, it has become clear that Darkthrone never took themselves as seriously as the rest of Norway's black metal inner circle. This is no secret. But despite the eccentric behaviour and hilarious interviews given by Fenriz and Nocturno Culto, their latter-day albums continued to display a bitter, venomous streak that made them a still-credible threat.

Does the rule still apply today, though? From their comical press releases ("The cult is alive, furious as tiger!"), the issue of a debut single featuring a Siouxsie & the Banshees cover song, and song titles like "Graveyard Slut", "Whiskey Funeral" and "Shut Up", there appeared a very real possibility that Darkthrone's flame had been quenched in a keg full of party music. The truth is not quite so alarming, but nor is the imagery shift entirely coincidental.

Technically speaking, the band has not changed much from the previous album, _Sardonic Wrath_. The guitar tone is still razor sharp, the riffs lurching and scything in the trademark Darkthrone style; Fenriz's drumming is as alluringly minimalist as ever, and Nocturno Culto's rasp is still one of the best in the business. Sure, there are a few guitar leads thrown into the mix this time around, but that's not entirely new to the band; in fact, many of the solos here are strongly reminiscent of those on _A Blaze in the Northern Sky_.

The most obvious difference this time around is lyrically, with lines like "Shut up, shut up... fucking TWAT" provoking a wry smirk and others like "you call your metal black?" or "you copy my style, and call yourself a man" seeming more gangsta rap than black metal. Lyrics alone do not necessarily make a great difference in this musical sub-genre, but in this case there is a tangible casualness running through the riffing and vocal delivery at the points where these silly quips are delivered. In this sense, the music sometimes feels a bit half-arsed, but it's still a fun listen when all prejudices are laid aside. And when Fenriz takes the mike on "Graveyard Slut" in what seems a blatant tribute to Sarcofago, you just can't help wanting to grab a can of lager and bounce off the walls a little.

Sure, _The Cult Is Alive_ is miles away from _Transilvanian Hunger_ in terms of spirit, even if the execution is not so far removed. It may not be their finest work, but it is still a highly enjoyable listen, and should certainly not be avoided for fear of sullying a legend.

Contact: http://www.darkthrone.no

(article published 15/3/2006)

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