The Underground Resistance
25 February 2013
by Tom Dare
In a funny way, you have to feel sorry for Darkthrone. Every time they’ve done something different, avoid what’s cool and flip humanity the finger, whatever they’ve done has, sooner or later, become trendy in metal circles. Unluckily for Darkthrone, ’80s speed metal and crust have both made a comeback. Everyone who spat their dummy out over The Cult Is Alive and F.O.A.D. incorporating both is now falling over themself to praise The Underground Resistance. So is this just hipster froth (well… some of it is, but is all of it?) or is album fifteen genuinely one of the Norwegians’ better moments?
Stylistically, the first five of The Underground Resistance’s six tracks hold few shocks to anyone familiar with recent Darkthrone. It’s perhaps a little bit more towards the “metal” end of the spectrum – more rapid chord changes in the riffs result in a little more dirty melody, there is more soloing and lead work, and there’s the odd really doomy bit like in ‘Come Warfare, The Entire Doom‘ – but nothing too dramatic bar the last track. That said, it all hangs together a little more than usual.
As much as there’s a shitload to like about the post-Sardonic Wrath Darkthrone records, there have been a few flaws even the band’s supporters have to acknowledge. They’ve never been the most consistent records of their career, and their longevity has been a little limited. Once the pleasure the enormous “FUCK YOU!” Darkthrone are spitting has worn off – the novelty factor, for want of a better phrase – the songs have been merely good. If they didn’t have that logo on the front, if it wasn’t the band that did Transilvanian Hunger and A Blaze In The Northern Sky, your interest would not be anywhere near what it is. This is absolutely not true of The Underground Resistance.
Partly this is due to that subtle shift in riffing technique mentioned before. The more proto-thrash, Venom-esque chug complete with the added melody, as opposed to the more sustained-chord strumming punk of, say, Circle The Wagons, means it’s both more memorable of a listen and retains its energy better after the filth-shock wears off. Partly it’s that they’ve recorded fewer songs and kept the standard up, keeping the album succinct (and short). But, significantly, it’s the last song that makes this the most enjoyable Darkthrone record for a very long time.
‘Leave No Cross Unturned‘ is fucking fantastic. For a start, it’s called ‘Leave No Cross Unturned‘. How badass is that? Admit it, you’re now picturing Fenriz and Nocturno Culto running around Oslo at night turning every cross upside down. See? Badass. But that’s not why the song rules.
It’s a 14-minute punky metal odyssey that throws grim-face-inducing thrash riffs at you constantly, wails solos at you all over the gaff and throws the one genuinely radical thing at you. While much of the vocals are that familiar gruff snarl that’s so effective, there are full-on King Diamond wails (or as close as is possible, anyway). It all sounds so evil, while still being proper headbanging fun. It takes up nearly half the record, and improves the whole album by doing so. It’s killer heavy metal.
The Underground Resistance is not a revolution, nor is it some seminal moment in rock history. What it is – and this is the only thing that matters – is a hugely enjoyable record made by two people doing it because they love metal.
Although fuck knows what they’ll do when they realise they’re “cool” again.
Sounds like: Venom, Motörhead, Mercyful Fate
Stand-out tracks: ‘Dead Early’, ‘Come Warfare, The Entire Doom’, ‘Leave No Cross Unturned’