Review: DarkthroneIt Beckons Us All

379
0
Share:

People always describe Darkthrone‘s consistency as being the key to their longevity, with even consensus discography low-points like Goatlord being worthwhile for their incredibly filthy, hateful delivery. But that consistency of quality hasn’t always meant a consistency in style.

In over three decades of full-length records, Darkthrone has bridged the gaps between early Swedish death metal worship, pioneering Norwegian black metal, NWoBHM, doom metal, American hardcore and more—with different eras of the band prioritizing different sounds, themes, and production styles. Even comparing their most famous black metal era records, the subtle, lingering death metal influence of A Blaze In The Northern Sky is light years removed from the Hellhammer worship of Panzerfaust. Later still, the pronounced crust punk influence of Dark Thrones And Black Flags feels worlds removed from the more rocking sound of Circle The Wagons.

Arctic Thunder was an interesting record because it saw Darkthrone approaching black metal in the most “traditional” way they had in 10 years. Though still imbued with the spirit of older doom and heavy metal, it felt more conventionally blackened than their records had in a long time, and more than anything else signaled the sound of “modern” Darkthrone. Old Star, Eternal Hails, Astral Fortress and now It Beckons Us All, for all their individual qualities, feel like variations on that theme.

The understated cosmic sound of It Beckons Us All is introduced with “Howling Primitive Colonies”‘ brief synth introduction, giving way to a swampy, thick guitar riff. Unusually for Darkthrone, I find that a lot of its slower moments are where the track is weakest, feeling less heavy and considered as much as it feels sluggish and directionless. The track picks up with the arrival of the mid-paced tremolo riff halfway through, and finishes solidly, but as an opener it’s very much a song of two halves.

“Eon 3” creeps into earshot with these gunshot guitar triplets that give the track a really distinct rhythmic identity on the album, acting as the bedrock for the more theatrical, ostentatious vocals. “Black Dawn Affiliation” is a lot less notable, save for some slick interplay between the riffing and the rhythm section. Its latter half feels pretty inconsequential; while suitably spacious and open, it just feels like too little is happening to really get engaged with.

Despite its shorter length the track “And In That Moment I Knew The Answer” was a big highlight, using its openness and dark tone stronger and far more cohesively than “Black Day Affiliation”‘s does. “The Bird People Of Nordland” is slower paced but retains an unstable, looser feeling through its use of open chords and prominent cymbal crashes that help inject the track with a lot of energy despite its lower BPM. The soloing on the track is probably the highlight of the entire record; despite being composed pretty traditionally and rigidly by Darkthrone’s standards, it’s honestly one of their best songs from the past decade.

Following this, “The Heavy Hand” feels lethargic and written with a narrower scope, probably the least interesting track on the record for me. Thankfully, “The Lone Pines Of The Lost Planet” ends the record with emphasis—a track that more than any other on It Beckons Us All, fulfills the promise of the album’s themes and artwork. The longest song on the album, it’s also the biggest sounding, with the massive, echoing harmonies of the guitar and vocals fully enveloping the mix. It’s a song that’s melancholic and brooding without losing any aggression or bite, ending the album with another career highlight for Darkthrone.

It Beckons Us All is an album of peaks and valleys that’s hard to describe without being scattershot. It’s an album that’s honestly got some of the band’s best tracks in their catalog, with a mostly solid back half belied by a first half that seems uncertain in its writing and direction. For an album that I think is overall enjoyable and another good addition to their discography, its pacing is so inconsistent that it can feel like less than the sum of its parts.

I suppose It Beckons Us All just feels less important and relevant as a record in the broader metal landscape, another album continuing in Darkthrone’s 2020s sound—and that’s grand, it’s a good sound. Most bands even a fraction of Darkthrone’s age are putting out records that sound inessential and reified, and most of those releases are nowhere as good as Darkthrone’s worst record. So it’s not an album that signals any quality decline for Darkthrone, necessarily, but just further solidifies a once-dynamic project iterating on broadly the same ideas they’ve been riffing on for half a decade. But at the same time, it’s an album from Darkthrone, and I haven’t heard any proof that a bad one of those exists yet.

3/5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell

 

It Beckons Us All is out now on Peaceville.

Did you dig this? Take a second to support Toilet ov Hell on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!