Darkthrone are certainly a band who have manifested themselves in a variety of styles over their long existence. From death-metal in their very beginnings, to the heavily punk-infused black-metal of the present day. The latter of the two being the style of “Dark Thrones and Black Flags”, one of their more (but not most) recent releases.
Despite the strong black-metal history, and influence on the bands present style, the opening track, and many after it, aren't as dark as one might suspect, in fact, they frequently border on being cheerful, for instance, the albums opener; “The Winds They Called the Dungeon Shaker” has a certain lovable upbeat quality, which comes across in many of the albums songs. This, of course, is in part due to the well measured and ever present punk influence, which invades (albeit pleasantly) every aspect of the music – each and every instrument. While the tremolos, mildly rough production, and aesthetic of black metal remains, there are downbeats, and a lot of 2/4 timing on the drums as opposed to blast-beats and other black-metal staple techniques The guitars, too, are a lot more riffy, creating a catchiness which Darkthrone's older works were without.
The vocals are different too, and are immensely varied through the entire album. Black metal vocals have often been replaced by a sort of “medium” growling, while remaining on songs such as “Norway in September”, which is one of the songs which leans on the black metal side of the balance between black metal and punk. On other tracks, fairly melodic, almost classical-like, pleasing singing exists, such as the album opener, which adds a sense of great variety to an album which is already a bouquet of different styles. In the middle of the album, the songs take a darker path, which contrasts with the lighter, punky material which the album opened with, and harkens more to Darkthrone's earlier material, but is still punk-infused, through and through.
I was initially somewhat tentative in sampling Darkthrone's later material, such as this album, however, I have to say that listening to it properly has dispelled any illusions I had about a lack of quality, or of finding something which spoiled the bands earlier work. If this album is anything to go by, Darkthrones later material is as enjoyable as anything it produced earlier on.
I give this album 7/10.
Links:Darkthrone on Metal Archives