Review: Darkthrone – Circle the Wagons


Review: Darkthrone – Circle the Wagons

From their roots as a death metal band, to their rise to fame in the black metal scene, the Norwegian-duo Darkthrone is constantly re-inventing their shit-stomping, crust punk, blackened thrash metal sound. Coming a year and a half after Hiking Metal Punks, Circle the Wagons proves that Fenriz and Nocturno Culto are true Norwegian metalheads.

Check out the rest of the review below.

Ever since their hailing masterpiece, The Cult Is Alive (which I constantly reference here) and their best work to date, F.O.A.D., Darkthrone’s experimented with genres outside the “true” Norwegian black metal. In a recent interview with Metal Sucks, Fenriz states why the word “true” in the commonly-tagged “True Norwegian Black Metal” was necessary at the time. He explains:

There was no need for TRUE in the 80s, it was when those misunderstandings of black metal arose in early 90s that there was a need for it. Up to ‘92 we simply played BLACK METAL, then when all the nerds starting “crashing the party” it was time to get some more categories up on the table.

Now, having dismissed black metal almost entirely, Darkthrone has created their own niche in the Norwegian scene, as evident in the opening track on Circle the Wagons. “Those Treasures Will Never Befall You” breathes a bitter breathe of decrepit air into the stagnent Norwegian metal scene. It’s not punk, it’s not death metal and it surely isn’t black metal. It’s just Darkthrone; undeniably beyond any category.

“Running For Borders” slows it down a bit, signaling Nocturno Culto’s special touch. As typical with current Darkthrone releases, each track is sculpted by either of the bandmates. Nocturno’s taste tends to be more on the heavy rock side and Fenriz’s tends to be more thrashy. “I Am The Graves Of The 80’s” steps it back up with a pure crust-infused tribute to “true” metal; an anthem to the days of real metal. Fenriz begins the track with a chant; “I am the graves of the 80’s… destroy the modern metal and bang your fucking head!”

The album continues in this fashion; one cold and slow heavy metal track, followed by a crust-infused thrash track. “Stylized Corpse” slows the momentum only for the title-track “Circle The Wagons” to come stomping in, ripped jeans, leather vest and shit-kickers flailing. A circle pit of British oi punk energy cross-bred with old 80’s thrash. “20 years later, I take you apart. You’re asking why? I have no heart!”. One thing you’ve got to appreciate and accept with Darkthrone is their song’s simplicity. There’s no deep-meaning, just energetically-composed rock.

“Black Mountain Totem” brings in the Native-American symbolism, as expressed in the new album art followed by “I Am The Working Class”, a track that’s surprisingly uplifting. “Eyes Burst At Dawn” is as close to black metal that you’ll get on Circle the Wagons. It’s a gripping, riff-filled anthem, akin to The Cult Is Alive and one of the more energetic cuts on the album.

Circle the Wagons ends with “Bränn Inte Slottet” which translates to “Don’t Burn the Castle”. It’s just as you’d expect after making your way through the frigid streets of Oslo, a gritty and frozen crust anthem. The first instrumental track in ages from the band and the perfect way to end the album.

When asked the following in his Metal Sucks interview:

Will the next Darkthrone record be reminiscent of the last one? What’s next for the band?

Fenriz replied:

Well, y’all think in ALBUMS, we figure it’s more like a LONG TUBE OF SONGS since we started in ‘87… only we just swoop ‘em up now and then when we have enough for an album. New one is even more HEAVY METAL/SPEED METAL-PUNK than the previous one.

Next for the band? I had 41 emails when I logged on. Now I have 40. Drat.

I agree, Circle the Wagons is a continuation of the band’s previous efforts. Some will cry “sell-outs” and to them I’ll say “fuck off and die”. This band is progressively morphing into one of the best bands to come out of Norway. This album will touch on all the classics and add some new insight into what metal’s all about. It’s definitely worth the purchase!