Friday, 26 September 2008

Hiking Metal Punks

Taken from the latest edition of TERRORIZER MAGAZINE (October 2008):
While the world is still waiting to hear 'DARK THRONES AND BLACK FLAGS', the fourteenth full-length DARKTHRONE offering, due in October, our correspondent Paul Schwarz got to hear a sneak preview and discovered that the next Darkthrone album is already on the way, all while half-way up a mountain in Oslo with FENRIZ and his hiking-buddy Mikael.

"The first song on our next album - not 'Dark Thrones And Black Flags', that was finished in July - its title is based on a mantra that Gezol of Japan (Sabbat, Metalucifer) has been saying a lot lately, 'Too much black, too little metal.' That's been the problem ever since '93. But you know, people have been taking care of that since the start of the new decade. Since 2000, there's so many youngsters who are really into the barbaric stuff again."

The sloppy sound?

"Yeah, very sloppy. I haven't practised since '93, just to get that sloppy. So whenever I play a song now it's like I'm walking without a compass. Like the song I have been doing now, 70 per cent of it is ready. I've had that much ready now for two months. I mull it over, again and again. Daily, or a day inbetween. I think of the song and I know what kind of tempo the last part will have, I just mull it over and hum along to what I have in my head. At this point, I still haven't picked up a guitar to try to do the stuff, because when I first do that I know I will finish the song."

Fenriz lets that bombshell drop and then reveals that he has a surprise. He is now going to play the first three tracks from 'Dark Thrones And Black Flags' for us and his friend Mikael Ohlsson, Professor of Ecology at the Norwegian Institue Of Life Sciences. We are all ears, especially considering how quiet it is in the near-wilderness of the forests surrounding Oslo. Packing the same pleasingly unclean sort of kick as last year's 'FOAD', opener 'The Winds They Called The Dungeon Shaker' has that same irrestibly catchy, anthemic quality that possessed the excellent 'Raised On Rock' - and has comparably spot-on, speaking-from-personal-experience lyrics, too.

"From the depths of the underground/Through the nurseries of real metal sound," the vocals howl at us. "It's 'cos we are part of the new underground from the 2000s," Fenriz explains, adding with a smile, "Nowadays, I write street lyrics."

It's a style which suits him, as 'FOAD' proved. Indeed, it makes sense of the fact that Norturno Culto and Fenriz now rigidly divide vocal duties, each singing their own songs. As that first track finishes, Fenriz reflects that the drumming at the end had something of a His Hero Is Gone feel. We nod in agreement and strain our ears: Nocturno Culto's contribution to this mini-listening session is up next.

'Death Of All Oaths' has a dank, dragging feel. Its vocals moan like an evil wind. Though less sparkling, it fits snugly next to 'The Winds They Called the Dungeon Shaker'. "Cosmos watching," the lyrics shriek, and Fenriz quips that this is actually a reference to Cosmo Kramer, from the 'Seinfeld' TV series. Really? No, he was just pulling our leg

"So the first song was mine, and this is of course Ted's," Fenriz confirms. "And then song number three is of course my hit song, 'Hiking Metal Punks'."

After the Kramer gag, we have to ask if he's serious.

"Well, it kicks ass, so it's serious."

He's not wrong. 'Hiking Metal Punks' is another stone-cold, rehearsal room-raised thrash rocker - the kind of thing Darkthrone have got impressively good at delivering of late. Fenriz explains a little of the philosophy behind their deliberately underground sound.

"Things changed around 89/90 and especially in the mid '90s, where everyone could get, like, a pro sound. Our first album, we just paid 1,000 quid for that studio session, and then we had that Entombed sound: that was like being professional. In the '80s, you had underground sound until you 'made it'. That all changed when you could get good sound for very little money. Once that happened, overground and underground became a choice, like you would choose to have underground sound, or you would choose to have overground sound. Then everybody could choose to be underground or overground sound."

That's the beginning of the deliberate underground.

"Yes. We're deliberate underground now. Basically, we just record in the way a demo would have been recorded in the '80s. Our albums now are just 35 or 40 minute long demos."

Other bands took a different route, one for which Fenriz has little to no time.

"A lot of bands chose to think, 'Oh, Transilvanian Hunger! If you play that twice the speed, with synthesisers, and a professional sound, it will be three times as good!' They make Disney version. When I first heard 'In the Nightside Eclipse' I was just like, 'Turn this off!' Everyone else was just like, 'What!? Don't you like this?' And I was just thinking to myself, 'Okay, we're on a different ballpark here.' And I just stick to myself and listen to thrash."

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