Darkthrone – Astral Fortress Album Review
Peaceville Records – 2022 – Norway
Darkthrone is one of the rare bands from Norway, with a history of about 35 years, so it is one of the bands that many metal listeners are likely to have listened to at least a few times. But of course, I can’t tell you about the band’s history in this article! If you haven’t listened to them until now, you can easily find their albums on many websites and platforms, and one of the reasons that make Darkthrone unique is that they haven’t given many concerts.
(I remember that they played live in Death Metal times, but I’m not sure)
The band, which has been active for so many years, has a considerable audience all over the world without any concerts or tours, which I think is really one of the rare events. On the other hand, the fact that the band uses social media very well, and especially Fenriz keeps the scene alive with Spotify lists, podcasts, etc., may be one of the biggest factors in this. (For those who are curious, there is a list of about 1000-odd songs on Spotify, crazy)
If we move on to the album; you can witness many discussions about what kind of style Darkthrone had on their last albums. Most of the people who like “black metal” say that they can’t adopt this style of the band and don’t like it. However, the band’s transformation into a successful band that has produced albums that include all branches of metal and even pre-80s psychedelic rock and progressive rock is not a problem for those who like to listen to a wide range of metal like me.
The sounds that the band captured in the albums they released in the 2000s have changed and developed with each album. Especially after the “F.O.A.D.” album, the punk heads they added to their music impressed me a lot. And it helped me like the band more. With albums like “Darkthrones and Black Flags” and “Circle the Wagons,” they managed to become one of the pioneers of the so-called “New Wave of Black Heavy Metal,” which they named themselves and which led many bands.
With “The Underground Resistance,” “Arctic Thunder,” “Old Star, Eternal Hails,” and countless other singles, the last few years have been almost empty.
Darkthrone, who prefer to use simpler themes and photos, especially on the covers of their latest albums, did not surprise us again and gave us the cover of their album titled “Astral Fortress” with a photo of Fenriz skating on ice. I must say that I don’t like this cover, which is used with a very minimalist point of view and an atmosphere that says “no need to try too hard!” The singles and video clips they released before the album was also shot and released quite simply with a mobile phone. The fact that the band doesn’t care so much about visuality may be a reference to the image curiosity of today’s bands!
I realise that I’m going too long, but I’m the kind of person who likes to explain things like this. If we move on to the album “Astral Fortress”, I can state that it is a 40-minute -medium length- album. It consists of 7 tracks. Compared to the “Eternal Hails” album, the song durations are a bit shorter, only two songs are longer than normal. (Who thinks this is normal is debatable, but I think a metal song should be around 5 minutes at most)
The album opens with “Caravan of Broken Ghosts,” which was released as a promotional video and single. It starts with an acoustic guitar. The Darkthrone sound we are used to in recent years has developed a slightly darker atmosphere. “Stalagmite Necklace” is another song that screams “80s.” With Nocturno Culto’s echoing voice, we get the flavour that darkens heavy metal. One of my favourite songs on the album is “Impeccable Caverns of Satan.” One of my favourite songs on the album is “Impeccable Caverns of Satan.” It has a more old-school atmosphere, is more energetic, and injects us with a more catchy atmosphere with tremolo riffs. “Stalagmite Necklace” is another song that screams “80s.” With Nocturno Culto’s echoing voice, we get the flavour that darkens heavy metal.
Synths I can say that there are almost no scream vocals. Nocturno Culto’s classical effect vocals fit the songs really well. It is very difficult to say anything against the masters and criticise them.
Although “The Sea Beneath the Seas of the Sea” is 10 minutes long, it has really great riffs and melodies. Cold and gloomy, but at the same time in a mood that manages to draw you into the atmosphere…
I don’t know the story of the song “Kevorkian Times,” but I found out that there was a doctor named Kevorkian who was an advocate and practitioner of euthanasia. But I couldn’t figure out if the song was related to him. In my opinion, this song is the most moving song on the album.
“Kolbotn, West of the Vast Forests” is a transition song using an eerie synth with nature sounds. And the album ends with “Eon 2.” This song was one of the most shared songs among the people I follow on social media. I think it would not be wrong to say that it is a heavy metal song. Eon was actually the closing song of their 1991 album, Soulside Journey. We are closing this album with Eon 2 after about 32 years.
To sum up, will Darkthrone take this sound they have achieved in recent years to other points? – We don’t know. But I think they have achieved a very high quality of momentum. Fenriz and Nocturno are unpredictable, they might release a new album, Transilvanian Hunger, on the next album… But I prefer them not to use this type of album cover 🙂