It's been nine albums, and the Norwegian legends of Black are still kicking. Or at least they're trying to. It seems somebody's foot got stuck somewhere because "Plaguewielder" is stale and motionless. DARKTHRONE is not doing any groundbreaking material, or even remotely interesting with this album. It's the same old so-called "raw" production, mid-tempo songs, relatively thin guitars, and Nocturnal Cult's grim vocals.
"Plaguewielder" is basically "Ravishing Grimness 2001." Not much difference between the two, only the guitars are more traditional Metal sounding or straightforward than the album before. The music itself is unemotional. It hardly demonstrates any kind of feeling, like it's labouring to get a point across. I think that's the pattern I notice throughout this release. DARKTHRONE is labouring to write music that excites listeners. They've done all of this before and are fighting themselves in order to stay awake. In doing that, the music seems to suffer as the songs go on longer than they should. Once a band as influential as DARKTHRONE has struggled for two consecutive studio albums, they should consider washing off the paint permanently. Judging from their last two albums, DARKTHRONE has become a "contract band." Writing music is for pure business purposes only. No more excitement, enthusiasm, and effort.
Having said the unpleasant criticism, "Plaguewielder" is not all bad. Some songs retain that grimness that many DARKTHRONE fans have been accustomed to. There are some parts worth remembering, such as the 4:17 mark of "Wreak," where a really nice melody kicks in. To me, it's the catchiest part of the album. Too bad only the last 5 minutes is worth the praise. (Online February 11, 2003)