Darkthrone – Eternal Hails – Album Review

Artist: Darkthrone

Album Title: Eternal Hails

Label: Peaceville

Date of Release: 25 June 2021

I am literally the least qualified person on this Earth to review this album. And I include my six-year-old’s entire school class when I say that. I remember purchasing ‘Goatlord’ in the late 90s as I was starting to uncover some real gems within the black metal genre. Within a week, I had sold it. It was horrible. The music sounded dreadful to my untrained ears and the production was even worse, sounding like a wasp farting in a biscuit tin. It wasn’t until years later that I realised that it wasn’t a ‘proper’ Darkthrone release, but by then, the die had been cast. If this was what ‘trve’, ‘cvlt’ black metal sounded like, I wanted nothing more to do with it. Call me a poser or a loser if you like, but I was quite happy to stick with the Dimmu Borgirs, Cradle Of Filths, and Borknagars of this world. True black metal or not, at least they could write a tune and record it so that we could hear what was going on.

Suffice to say that it is now 2021 and until about a week ago, I’d not listened to another Darkthrone song in over twenty years. However, as I have rattled on endlessly this year about broadening my horizons and stepping out of my comfort zone, I felt that album number 19 from Fenriz and Nocturno Culto should serve as the catalyst to let bygones be bygones and see if I could understand what all the miserable black and white forest dwellers were on about. Exciting eh?!

Talking of broadening horizons, I think Darkthrone have actively done the same. ‘Eternal Hails’ is an album comprised of just five songs spread over forty minutes or so. It means that the songs are not quick affairs, with each one lasting over seven minutes. I wasn’t expecting that. I also wasn’t expecting to hear a clutch of songs that have more affinity with the world of doom metal than cold, frosty, and spiteful black metal. Although you can still hear flashes of old-school black metal at times within the compositions, the tempo is generally much slower than I was anticipating. It might not be an old-school black metal record, but ‘Eternal Hails’ definitely has an old-school vibe from a doom metal standpoint; the music has strong 70s echoes and it is organic-sounding with a demonstrable ‘live in the studio’ feel to it.

What I’m not surprised by, is the production. It has improved from sounding like it was recorded in the ‘Goatlord’ shoe box, but the overall sound remains lo-fi, fuzzy, echoey and basic. It’s not my preferred sound and it never will be. I’m afraid I will always prefer a more polished, less muddy mix when push comes to shove.

I’m also not the biggest fan of 70s inspired doom metal either, so whilst I can understand why ‘Eternal Hails’ will gain traction with both their existing fanbase and other curious listeners, I find the whole thing rather dull and uninspiring if I’m honest. That’s not because Fenriz and Nocturno Culto haven’t crafted good music, it’s just that this isn’t really the kind of thing I seek out to listen to by choice. If I listen to doom metal, I think along the lines of Sorcerer or My Dying Bride rather than the more obvious influences of Saint Vitus and early Candlemass.

There are some hight points however, most notably in the opening and closing songs when the overwhelming power of the guitar riff is replaced or supplemented by some melody. ‘His Masters Voice’ suddenly grabs my attention when, at around the 4:45 mark, it opens up to deliver a meaty but catchy melody that is then built upon by a solemn lead guitar line. It remains slow and ponderous but feels much more engaging thanks to the inherent melodic qualities within the riff. It’s a similar story with the closer, ‘Lost Arcane City Of Uppakra’ although when the song introduces the powerful melody in the latter stages, it is more of a NWOBHM-inspired affair rather than a melodic doom riff. The melody follows a period of strange, almost discordant minimalism and hits the mark more strongly because of it. The eerie synth sounds that sit alongside are bold and slightly odd, but they work well within this context it has to be said.

Other more interesting elements of the music can be found within the slow-burning catchiness of some of the riffs within ‘Hate Cloak’ or the greater speed within ‘Wake Of The Awakened’. But, ultimately, this isn’t for me. It has surprised me, that’s for sure, and I’m glad I have finally spent a little time with a band as highly revered in the underground as Darkthrone. But, when all is said and done, I just don’t feel as strongly invested in this kind of lo-fi 70s-inspired doom to think about spending much more time with ‘Eternal Hails’. One for the diehards and old-school doom afficionados only I would suggest.

The Score of Much Metal: 75%

Further reviews from 2021:

Ex Deo – The Thirteen Years Of Nero

Carcass – Torn Arteries

Aeon Zen – Transversal

Enslaved – Caravans To The Outer Worlds

A Dying Planet – When The Skies Are Grey

Leprous – Aphelion

Night Crowned – Hädanfärd

Brainstorm – Wall Of Skulls

At The Gates – The Nightmare Of Being

Rivers Of Nihil – The Work

Fractal Universe – The Impassable Horizon

Darkthrone – Eternal Hails

Thy Catafalque – Vadak

Terra Odium – Ne Plus Ultra

Hiraes – Solitary

Eye Of Purgatory – The Lighthouse

Crowne – Kings In The North

Desaster – Churches Without Saints

Helloween – Helloween

Fear Factory – Aggression Continuum

Wooden Veins – In Finitude

Plaguestorm – Purifying Fire

Drift Into Black – Patterns Of Light

Alluvial – Sarcoma

White Moth Black Butterfly – The Cost Of Dreaming – Album Review

Silver Lake by Esa Holopainen

Bloodbound – Creatures From The Dark Realm

Nahaya – Vital Alchemy

Frost* – Day And Age

Obsolete Theory – Downfall

Vola – Witness

Acolyte – Entropy

Dordeduh – Har

Subterranean Masquerade – Mountain Fever

Seth – La Morsure Du Christ

The Circle – Metamorphosis

Nordjevel – Fenriir

Vreid – Wild North West

Temtris – Ritual Warfare

Astrakhan – A Slow Ride Towards Death

Akiavel – Vae Victis

Gojira – Fortitude

Hideous Divinity – LV-426

Benthos – II

Evile – Hell Unleashed

Ninkharsag – The Dread March Of Solemn Gods

Bodom After Midnight – Paint The Sky With Blood

Morrigu – In Turbulence

Mother Of All – Age Of The Solipsist

Throne – Pestilent Dawn

Sweet Oblivion (Geoff Tate) – Relentless

Exanimis – Marionnettiste

Dvne – Etemen Ænka

Cannibal Corpse – Violence Unimagined

Arion – Vultures Die Alone

Maestitium – Tale Of The Endless

Wode – Burn In Many Mirrors

Everdawn – Cleopatra

Unflesh – Inhumation

Mourning Dawn – Dead End Euphoria

Wheel – Resident Human

Wythersake – Antiquity

Odd Dimension – The Blue Dawn

Metalite – A Virtual World

Cryptosis – Bionic Swarm

Ghosts Of Atlantis – 3.6.2.4

Memoriam – To The End

Aversed – Impermanent

Secret Sphere – Lifeblood

Enforced – Kill Grid

Liquid Tension Experiment – LTE3

Turbulence – Frontal

Iotunn – Access All Worlds

Warrior Path – The Mad King

Stortregn – Impermanence

Mariana’s Rest – Fata Morgana

Orden Ogan – Final Days

Witherfall – Curse Of Autumn

Plague Weaver – Ascendant Blasphemy

Ephemerald – Between The Glimpses Of Hope

Paranorm – Empyrean

Einherjer – North Star

Epica – Omega

Humanity’s Last Breath – Välde

Simulacrum – Genesis

Forhist – Forhist

Evergrey – Escape Of The Phoenix

Empyrium – Über den Sternen

Moonspell – Hermitage

Infernalizer – The Ugly Truth

Temperance – Melodies Of Green And Blue EP

Malice Divine – Malice Divine

Revulsion – Revulsion

Demon King – The Final Tyranny EP

Dragony – Viribus Unitis

Soen – Imperial

Angelus Apatrida – Angelus Apatrida

Oceana – The Pattern

Therion – Leviathan

Tribulation – Where The Gloom Becomes Sound

Asphyx – Necroceros

W.E.T. – Retransmission

Labyrinth – Welcome To The Absurd Circus

TDW – The Days The Clock Stopped

Need – Norchestrion: A Song For The End

You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here:

2020 reviews

2019 reviews
2018 reviews
2017 reviews
2016 reviews
2015 reviews

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