A couple of years into DARKTHRONE’S early 2000s era of flirting with Punk sensibilities, but largely avoiding making up their minds on what they want to sound like, the somewhat bland and by-the-numbers release otherwise known as “Hate Them” came into being. Unlike its very confused and awkward predecessor “Plaguewielder”, there is definitely an intelligible direction at play here, although it is replete with stops and starts. Fenriz and Nocturno seem to know where they want to go at this point, but their songwriting seems a few steps behind them, unwilling to fully commit to the more basic and less blackened approach that is rearing its head.
For the most part, things are kept relatively simple, as Nocturno maintains a riffs alone approach to songwriting that has little of the intrigue or flash of the early years. Most of the songs contained within are built off of 4 specific ideas, alternating between the straight power chord drive common to many Hard Core bands, and the hypnotic, hazy sound that the style borrowed from various Ambient and New Wave bands. Some such as “Ytterst I Livet” and “Det Svartner Nå” seek to bring back elements of “Transylvanian Hunger” or “Panzerfaust” and merge them with the warmer, frost free production quality that the band has maintained since “Ravishing Grimness”, but lack the unique melodic contours and distinctive hooks to really carry themselves well. “Divided We Stand” and “Fucked Up And Ready To Die” work in the heavy, Death Metal influenced tremolo riffs brought in from the early 90s and work a bit better with Culto’s guttural mutterings, but struggle a little to get going due to being too simple for their own good.
The places where “Hate Them” actually starts to work well are when the aforementioned influences are scaled back and the band keeps to the Punk elements. “Striving For A Piece Of Lucifer” is the best example, and is primarily based on upper tempo Thrashing beats and plain strummed guitar lines, but the resulting groove that is established is far better suited to the raw, heavy character of the album. There is a healthy amount of variation, but there is an enduring theme that pervades the entire song’s duration and keeps things consistent. “Rust” and “In Honour Of Thy Name” present similar stories musically, but are frontloaded with heavily repetitive intros that come off as overlong and somewhat unnecessary. The Ambient parts contained in both sound a bit out of place, and probably would have been better suited on “Total Death”, where the band was still sticking to creepier and darker songs that called for some parallel horror movie soundtrack material to use as detailing.
Although a definite improvement from “Plaguewielder”, this is guaranteed to leave most fans of either Black Metal or even Black Punk music wanting. There are enough good moments on here to qualify this as bargain bin treasure, but there is nothing that really terrifies or otherwise entertains the way DARKTHRONE albums are normally expected to. You might not catchy yourself falling asleep to it in the middle of the afternoon, but it definitely will not demand weekly, or even monthly worship sessions at the church of Metal.
(Online June 7, 2010)