Here we are, it’s 2004 and the Don Corleone of Black Metal has summoned up the whole of their artistical genius and retreated into the cold hills of Norway to attempt a return to form after the somewhat impressive but ultimately lackluster “Hate Them.” I for one had built up an immense degree of expectation waiting impatiently for my copy to arrive by mail. When it in did in fact arrive I was taken aback for two reasons, the first of which being the impressive artwork which is second only to the magnificent splendor of the unholy trinity. Just take a gander at those angels donning corpse-paint and descending upon the massive sea of humans. If that doesn’t conjure up a smile on the viewer I don’t know what will. The second item which struck me with mild shock was the content. In retrospect it should not have shocked me in the least. The notion that DARKTHRONE would fail to evolve or offer us anything new has been in effect longer than Varg Vikernes prison sentence.
So the mighty forefathers of my most loved genre have produced another stale album which offers nothing new…right? Wrong. While the concepts and structure of the pieces found on this album are not progressive in comparison to previous albums in the least, there is still some enjoyment to be had. Like the ‘49er panning for gold in the Californian stream, one must sift through the dirt and water to discover bits of splendor.
The album begins on a rather sour note which does in fact set a depressing mood but for all the wrong reasons. The bloated intro entitled “Order Of The Ominous” proves a flop as DARKTHRONE discover the answer to, “How long can an ambient intro possibly be?” It is effective…for the first 10-20 seconds and then it turns belly-up as you’re left wondering how long till we are actually greeted with music. It would have served much more effective being placed in the beginning of “Information Wants To Be Syndicated” and kept trimmed to 15 seconds. The ambience does project an ominous feeling but just sputters and dies out having trouble sustaining its lifespan. I can only suspect that the intro was spread so thin over such a period of time as to lengthen the overall playing time of the album, as without the intro and slightly less-useless “Rawness Obsolete”, which serves as a make-shift outro, the album would only clock in at a measly 24:67.
“Information Wants To Be Syndicated” is the first actual song and features the refined guitar-tone DARKTHRONE have been implementing since “Total Death.” Fenriz’s drumming is on par to what one would expect and the overall structure of the song offers nothing new or exciting. Nocturno Culto’s vocals are still holding up over all these years. They are hateful and throaty and readily identifiable. With that being said it is hard not to miss some of the more energetic screams that were spread liberally throughout DT’s early albums.
The second song is one hell of a ride. “Sjakk Matt Jesu Krist” (“Check-Mate Jesus Christ”) offers us a somewhat energetic slab of vicious Black ‘N Roll and showcases one of the best riffs DARKTHRONE have offered us in the second half of their career. This is the absolute highlight of the album and when coupled with the next track, “Straightening Sharks in Heaven”, one cannot help but bang your head and embrace metal bliss. If Fenriz and Nocturno Culto could produce such compositions as this stellar pair I really believe they would be at the forefront of the Norwegian scene, rather than in the static hole they have dug themselves into.
After the two formerly mentioned cuts the album begins to falter as tracks begin to blend together with no discernable riffs and little to no energy. Who would want to read a book where you can’t identify the beginning from the end of a chapter? The work comes across as rather dull and uninspired to be brutally honest. Anyone who owns “Plaguewielder”, “Hate Them”, or “Ravishing “Grimness” will find little which is new in the second half of this album and frankly it brings back memories of Cannibal Corpse’s discography (own one album and. The album is certainly worth a spin and the double-edged sword of “Sjakk Matt Jesu Krist” and “Straightening Sharks In Heaven” is quite refreshing but is unable to keep the album afloat when weighed down by the its brethren.
DARKTHRONE have clearly defined themselves as sticking to the tried modern formula of Black ‘N Roll which seems to be spreading amongst the legends of old who still participate in this scene (see SATYRICON and CARPATHIANFOREST). While it proves somewhat entertaining, it lacks longevity and staying power and it becomes quite evident that these legends are sinking to the bottom of the scene as new and refreshing acts like TAAKE, DEATHSPELL OMEGA and ANAAL NATHRAKH pave the way of innovation and creativity. (Online April 7, 2005)