Norwegian gods of yore return with their first offering on Satyr’s Moonfog Productions. The question that is so prevalent it should have been embossed on the back of the album is whether “Panzerfaust” lives up to the raw hate inspired by DARKTHRONE’s previous outing, “Transilvanian Hunger.” With Zephyrous departing before this recording it was questionable whether these two could maintain their momentum but the first release with the band acting solely as a duo is in fact one to revel.
What always made DARKTHRONE a special entity in my mind was the sense of melody captured in the riffs. This melding with the Norwegians sense of raw visceral energy truly made for an energetic outing and guaranteed a spot in my CD collection for their early releases. Melody is what lifts Nocturno Culto’s riffs into a realm of heavenly splendour and keeps them from escaping the prison of the mind (I don’t go through a day without the main riff of “In The Shadow Of The Horns” sounding through my head). Melody is in fact what we are served in this banquet and acts as one of the several building blocks of this production.
I also need to mention before delving any deeper that I have always enjoyed the Norwegian lyrics and felt they only helped to flush out the atmosphere and vibe emanating from albums such as “Transilvanian Hunger” and “Under A Funeral Moon”. Thus it was a double-edged sword finding several tracks on “Panzerfaust” containing this unique flair, albeit in small quantity.
The first track is in fact written in the group’s native tongue and proves quite strong. “En Vind Av Sorg” translates as “A Wind Of Sorrow.” It is aptly named as the cold guitar lines emanate a sense of dread and truly exemplify the title. I can’t help but feel a chilling sense of depravity seep through the pores in my skin and drench me in a sombre surrealism, setting a bold tone for the rest of the album. As the production values screech their way into your ear canal it is readily apparent this is no “Transilvanian Hunger”. The sound has been mildly cleaned up and offers a slightly cleaner fuzz if you will. Rather than sucking the listener up into a void of a blizzard the album merely begins to eat away at your skin applying frost-bite at a more gradual pace. Mild disappointment is immediately cast aside as Nocturno Culto’s voice kicks in with the ferocity of man-eating beast. Opting for a somewhat cleaner rasp NC sounds like the wailing ghost of one Tom G. Warrior. Top notch and the most impressive vocals that have come out of his mouth since the “Thulcandra” demo.
“Hordes Of Nebulah” is one of those songs that you just can’t understand how or why. Who would have fathomed DARKTHRONE was capable of producing such potent doom styled riffs. Just when you thought Fenriz and Nocturno Culto were content championing speed they deliver us this aural nightmare. The mid-paced riffing is truly unique and offers some variety which is quite welcome. Ultimately the song is picked up with an injection of intensity via a chugging riff which serves as pleasant foreshadowing for what is to come.
The duo of “Hans Siste Vinter” and “Beholding The Throne of Might” storm forward knocking you off your feet with a renewed sense of vigor and speed. These two cuts are pure old-school in the fact that the main riff in both hearken back to earlier albums. “Hans Siste Vinter” almost sounds like a twisted remix of the title track off “Transilvanian Hunger”. Additionally, making the statement that “Beholding The Throne Of Might” is not fueled by a riff amazingly similar to “In The Shadow Of The Horns” would be equal to stammering that Chris Barnes could write an album to save his life. This does perhaps offer the idea that DARKTHRONE are in fact running out of riffs but that notion can immediately be dismissed upon experiencing the rest of the album.
Next we are greeted with “Quintessence”, which thumps forward in the vein of “Hordes Of Nebulah” and reiterates the variety found on this album. This song is carried along and proves quite memorable thanks to gracious riffing that stands out and firmly plants itself in your skull. Songs like this would have saved “Sardonic Wrath”, “Hate Them”, or even “Plaguewielder” from trotting down that lane of mediocrity this outfit spiraled into.
Our bitter journey through the Scandinavian trees comes to an end with the song/speech “Sno Og Granskog (Utferd)”. Starting off interesting enough, we are slapped in the face with the sounding of a repeating chorus of horns. This shows perhaps a different side of these two and comes across as completely unexpected yet utterly enticing. When Nocturno Culto’s voice rolls in I am struck dumb. Spoken word…when did NC turn into Henry Rollins? All jokes aside once the track fully develops I can not help but be taken aback. Once overtaking the ensuing shock I began to realize the value of such a composition. Tracks containing spoken word rarely work and often grate on my nerves, but this special instance, alongside CORONER’s last track on “No More Color”, proves in the right context such a song can evoke a mood previously un-experienced. Ultimately this works rather well as an outro which is a nice change to the all too common eerie ambience overused in this genre.
My verdict: a solid release by the Norwegian forefathers and worth your time and money. Nocturno Culto’s best vocal performance yet, excellent varied riffs full of melody and still an intelligent awareness of atmosphere and direction. This album acts as the final fair-well dirge of a band which would dive into the waters of mediocrity. DARKTHRONE’s last mandatory album. (Online May 10, 2005)