Album Review: Eternal Hails…… – Darkthrone

So, obviously Darkthrone have a new album out, and as is usual with any of their releases since the time “Transilvanian Hunger” ended a trilogy of releases that have gone down in history as some of the most definitive Black Metal albums ever to grace this filthy fucked up planet, opinions vary GREATLY about their output ever since. I am on the fence, “Soulside Journey” was to me their greatest being Death Metal and all, so I personally have not paid much attention either way.

Here we offer you four different perspectives. Two good, and two not at all good. Every one of these is a worthy piece written by people who genuinely care about their music. There is wisdom within, and humour and also some vitriol, because what else makes people so fiery other than music. Politics, religion, race be fucked, you wanna pick a fight? Hack on a dude listening to Johnny Cash or another listening to Eminem and see if they don’t get their knickers in a knot.

Funny story here, whilst playing this album loud in my office that faces the street, some drunken Scot walked past, yelled out “Eternal Fails,” and then puked on my lawn. Maybe I am talking shit, but this one certainly has caused some serious discussion. Feel free to let us know what YOU think. Eternal Hails for them to keep it up, or Eternal Fails for even bothering is the question.

– The Great Mack
.

Obsolete Dreadnought:

For many years now Darkthrone have not changed their musical style. They keep regularly bringing out albums of the best whatever-the-hell-Darkthrone-feels-like-playing metal. This pisses some people off – especially those who want them to go back to the sound of their TNBM trilogy. To those people I would recommend going and playing “Transilvanian Hunger” again. I do it when I feel like it, and it still feels good. But it would make no sense to expect these guys to go Black Metal again.

Darkthrone are obviously aware of this and they play with it. When the artwork of their previous album,“Old Star,” was released, many hoped for a return to Black Metal (*evil laugh*.) Darkthrone have played the same prank with this new album. The obvious “Soulside Journey” reference in the art cover had many expecting a Death Metal album. Nope. “Eternal Hails……” is a Doom album. So, this has apparently surprised a lot of people. Why? The Doom elements have been clearly present in their sound for years. And, since 2013’s “The Underground Resistance,” they have been almost omnipresent. Lots of people are speaking about the lengthy songs. Again, why? The same applies here as with the Doom sound.

Actually, the worst thing I could say about “Eternal Hails……” is that it is not surprising at all when one has paid attention to what the band did in the last ten years. If you have been enjoying their releases since they left the Crust Punk elements behind, you will most certainly enjoy this album. 

There is more mid-tempo here than usual and it is indeed a more strictly Doom album than their previous releases. The sound is nevertheless true Darkthrone. You get that absolute riff worship, and the vocal lines are built without refrains – because this is not a singalong album. The atmospheres are well built, especially in the central track, “Wake of the Awakened.” Damn, there is even a passage with awesome keyboards there! 

The production could have been more heavy and oppressing, but I’m really not complaining. This album may lack highlights but it really doesn’t need them. This is really made to be enjoyed as a whole. The record may not sound really original, but that is not what Darkthrone are here for. “Eternal Hails……” is monolithically solid. I’m giving this a fucking 4/5. And am curious about what the other Metal Wanderlusters that seem to hate this album are going to write about it!

Rating: 4/5

George:

Well, it seems like only 5 minutes ago Darkthrone released “Old Star.” But, here we are again, with a new album. Let’s start at the start. What the fuck is with the cavernous vagina album art? And, not since “Circle the Wagons” have we had such a shit album name. Fuck me! If the cheesy fucking name is anything to go by, this album is gonna suck. 

But, the hype train is in full swing with reviewers giving “Eternal Hails……” 10 out of 10 mere hours after its release. 10 out of 10!!! Really?! There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this album? Really?! So, even if you’re not going to criticise the music (which we’ll get to in a minute) or the abysmal lyrics, the fact that they’re slightly out of time in spots, or hit a few bum notes just adds to the atmosphere for you? You people disgust me. Let’s be honest with each other, I can understand how some people will enjoy this album, but giving this album 10 out of 10 is just transparent as fuck. If you are a reviewer and you give this 10 out of 10…quit! You have absolutely no ear for music.

Before we get into the music, let’s discuss the recording. It’s pretty bad, but I can live with shitty recordings. I grew up listening to BM and “Transilvanian Hunger” is awesome. But, the vocals. Christ! The vocals suck arse. It sounds like Nocturno is trying to back one out the bog. They’re on par with Chris Barnes’ vocals on the last Six Feet Under album.

Darkthrone is responsible for three classic BM albums. No-one can deny that. But this album is the culmination of 20+ years of making albums with no adventure or innovation. Albums where they just attempt to replicate their 80’s heroes. The 80’s finished 31 years ago and the riffs here, like anyone born in the 80’s, are just very tired.

Unlike the shark that needs to keep moving forward to survive, Darkthrone is the stagnant, bloated corpse of a whale washed up and rotting on a beach. Like the whale corpse, they attract a crowd…but it’s for all the wrong reasons. A mate of mine said to me, at least fifteen years ago now, Darkthrone seems to just release anything and people will buy it. And this perfectly encapsulates “Eternal Hails……”

I do like to try to say something nice in each review. So, here it is, I liked the last riff in “His Master’s Voice.” It reminded me of old Isengard. But, that’s part of the problem. I can just go listen to old Isengard because it’s better than this crappy album

Rating: 1.5/5

VUK:

I don’t listen to Darkthrone the same way many listen to Darkthrone. By that I mean, for better or worse, I’m not a big enough fan to care much when they release a record, or if said record will be something I enjoy. Generally speaking, I couldn’t care less. Like George, I have a reasonable amount of respect for Fenriz and Nocturno as artists and, when the mood strikes, aside from the requisite classics, “Plaguewielder ” really hits the spot. “F.O.A.D.” is fun as hell, which may seem like a dumb ass word to describe anything Darkthrone-related, but I don’t give a fuck. 

So, it was a bit out of character for me to be looking forward to “Eternal Hails……” I was, though. “Hate Cloak” was a good single. By no means a brilliant piece of songwriting, but it had enough of a bite to keep me interested. I had hoped the subpar production would annoy me less when I was able to absorb the entire album. I know Darkthrone well enough to recognize they don’t do anything by accident. 

Upon listening the first time, to be perfectly honest, I was offended. That may sound extreme, but it’s true. At worst it sounded lazy, at best hopelessly cliche. No, I didn’t read the transparent ass-kissing reviews George wrote about, but come on! I heard the album! Could Darkthrone record themselves taking shits while eating Doritos, put some reverb on it, splash their logo over a picture one of them took with their cell phone, call that their next album, and still have people buy it? Perhaps this sounds both insulting and insane, but if it’s even remotely true (which wouldn’t shock me), what it means is that Darkthrone is keenly aware of the creative freedom said insulting insanity allows. Obsolete Dreadnought touched on this phenomena earlier. Seems to me it would be quite tempting to release a turd every now and then just to see how far they could make the stink stretch. And that is exactly the first impression “Eternal Hails…..” gave off.

Knowing this album was recorded in a proper studio, coupled with a handful of landmines tossed about by magazines during the months preceding the release of “Eternal Hails……,” I saw no excuse for the drums to sound so muffled and lifeless, or for the rest of the instruments and vocals to be so obviously manipulated into sounding like a cheap Celtic Frost imitation. By attempting to pay “homage” to artists like these, I believe Darkthrone failed miserably, if for no other reason than the songs weren’t good enough. On that first listen, I heard a been-there/done-that aesthetic throughout the entire thing, and that just annoyed the living shit out of me.

Now, some time has passed since that initial reaction. I have listened to the album a couple more times, and was able to find more enjoyment out of it than I had the first time. That’s a good sign, but if I’m being honest if this weren’t a Darkthrone album I wouldn’t have listened to it twice. 

During one of these listens, I was reading the notes provided by Fenriz on Apple Music. Quite an entertaining read, if you haven’t had the pleasure, and I must say these short excerpts add a great deal of entertainment value to the overall experience of the record. But I can’t tell if Fenriz is serious or talking out his ass to have a laugh. Either way, I do not hear any of the things he’s describing. Which either makes me hard of hearing and small-minded, or Darkthrone evil genius masterminds who have hidden massive amounts of subliminal output to the vinyl version of “Eternal Hails……” I’m comfortable enough with my shortcomings to admit the latter is a real life possibility. 

So, what does all of this amount to at the end of the day? Not much, if you’re a hardcore Darkthrone fan, but quite a bit if you’re not. I say this because Darkthrone fans are going to love the record no matter what some small-time writer thinks, and people on the fringes of this fandom will undoubtedly be intrigued enough to listen at least once. Some of those people may disagree with my take entirely, and Darkthrone will have gained some new listeners. This being the case, the band simply cannot lose. Good for them, I say! I also say…

Rating: 2.5/5 

I somehow doubt that will hurt anyone’s feelings. 

Sean Zimmerman:

“Eternal Hails…” is the 19th full-length release from Norway’s legendary Darkthrone. The band should need little introduction, having been one of the key players in the 2nd wave of Black Metal in the early to mid-90s with such monumentally influential albums as “A Blaze in the Northern Sky” and “Transilvanian Hunger.”

Since that era the duo of Fenriz and Nocturno Culto have continued to utilize their own unique songwriting elements in a continuing evolution of styles and influences. While never completely abandoning the Black Metal components of their most famous works, the band has certainly never been content on merely treading the same old ground. Having traversed the realms of Black Metal, Death Metal, Speed and Thrash Metal, the bands current style of Crust Punk and Doom Metal could be seen as a potpourri of old school 70’s and 80’s Metal and Hard Rock bands. Their albums serve as sort of love letters to the past. “Eternal Hails…” is no different.

The opening track, “His Master’s Voice,” begins oddly with a clean guitar riff that immediately brings to mind 80’s goth rock bands. This is quickly swept away as the band plunges full-swing into a Motorheadesque riff accompanied by vocals reminiscent of Celtic Frost with a touch of Venom. The music is heavy, catchy, raw and full of attitude.

The production values are lo-fi but not to the point of being unlistenable, creating just the right amount of atmosphere and old school feeling. Fenriz’s big, booming and natural drums fill up the soundscape.

The bridge section on track one breaks into a series of Thrash riffs, which then gives way to an incredibly heavy Doom sledgehammer ala Candlemass, or other 80’s Doom masters. Simple lead guitar ideas add just enough texture and interest to the mix to keep the monolithic sound from becoming monotonous.

As the song ends, the clean guitar intro repeats with just a touch of synth sound (a rarity on Darkthrone records) adding a psychedelic feel to the mix. The band’s unique blend of classic styles is on full display, indeed both on this track and on the album as a whole. While clearly reveling in their influences, this album could never have been made in the 80’s. It took the passage of time for these various constituents to really seep into people’s consciousness for this amalgam of music to make sense.

“Hate Cloak,” the advance single for the album, is the next track. While the band would undoubtedly cringe at the comparison, the song has an immense suite-like quality with a series of clearly defined sections and a reprise of the opening material at the end of the song. Beginning with some simple harmonized melodic guitar ideas the song quickly morphs into a heavy Black Sabbath Doom juggernaut.

The aggressive riffage mounts and is counterbalanced by a simpler riff, with weird dissonant lead guitar floating on top. A riff which calls to mind Metallica’s “The Thing That Should Not Be” plays in one of the latter segments of the song. Indeed, the scope and arrangement of the song immediately brings to mind similarities to the title track for “Master of Puppets,” although done in a very, very different style.

The album’s centerpiece, “Wake of the Awakened,” offers cryptic lyrics that accompany a very Burzum-sounding opening segment. The tempo is upbeat, but soon gives way to a variety of tempos and feelings. Simple, haunting synths make another brief appearance in this song, again calling to mind early Burzum. The band’s full powers are on display in this track as they effortlessly bounce between slow, heavy Doom, brisk trimmed out Black Metal melodies, headbanging 80’s Heavy Metal riffage, and even a very brief touch of early Death Metal. The impression is immediate and undeniable: catchy and memorable as hell.

“Voyage to a North Pole Adrift,” the longest track on the album at just over ten minutes, beings with a harmonic-minor sounding guitar lick peppered with harsh dissonances. The song quickly devolves once again into the principle stylistic element of the record: mammoth-like and crushingly heavy Doom Metal.

Nocturno Culto’s pained vocals evoke Tom G. Warrior to great effect, and tell of a frozen world slowly melting away. Slow, glacial doom riffs play against upbeat Manilla Road-like influences.

Another simple guitar solo adds just the right amount of light on this murky morass of agony. As the closing section of the composition rears its head, the dissonances of the intro return, this time with spoken atmospheric vocals haunting the background and a pulverizing double kick outro. Darkthrone are clearly accomplished songwriters and arrangers who know exactly what they’re doing: how to suck the listener in, how to build a song to a climax and end with a flood intensity. Despite the vastness of these songs, nothing sounds wasted. There is no filler, no doldrums in this ocean of sound.

The album’s closing track, “Lost Arcane City of Uppakra” tells the tale of a mythic city never subdued by Christianity. The aforementioned omnipresent Black Sabbath, Candlemass and Saint Vitus influences are melded with brisk NWOBHM sounds to create an absolutely unforgettable listening experience.

The closing section of the song may in fact be the highlight of the entire album. Indeed it ranks as one of the most memorable moments on any Darkthrone record. Everything drops out sonically except for a sole clean guitar playing a strange atonal riff. Once again, a layer of synth is added into the mix, this time creating a sci-fi atmosphere. The music explodes and one is left with the impression of being on the strange alien world that is depicted on the album’s cover, just before fading out into oblivion.

For those who are not on board with Darkthrone’s odes to Metal bands past or their own unique raw sound, “Eternal Hails……” will do little to win them over. However, for those who enjoy and eagerly look forward to whatever this highly prolific duo release, they will find much to love. This album is similar enough to both recent and past efforts that it fits comfortably in their vast canon of releases. Yet the album has just enough uniqueness and strangeness to make the journey seem fresh and vital. Whatever one may say about them, Darkthrone make the music they want to make on their own terms and do a damn fine job of it. Highly recommended.

Rating: 4.5/5

https://peaceville.bandcamp.com/album/eternal-hails

https://peaceville.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/Darkthrone-101075189934422

https://www.facebook.com/PeacevilleRecords

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