Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Darkthrone - Hate Them (2003)

Hate Them is the tenth studio album from Darkthrone. Recorded and mixed at Pan lydstudio in 26 hours, during December 2002, it was released in March 2003 on Moonfog Records. This album marks the return to a more stripped-down sound, compared to Total Death, Ravishing Grimness or Plaguewielder, the latter being filled with several good ideas but being quite underrated due to the colorful artwork and the higher quality production. Hate Them can be seen as a bit of regression, back to a more raw and primitive sound. There was also a conscious effort to distance themselves from some of the criticisms received for the cover art of the previous album. All of their energy was well spent as they created the most raw and old school album since 1995's Panzerfaust. It's a shame that this wasn't released in 1996, as it seemed they simply went through the motions since then, with a few exceptions.

I was eagerly awaiting the release of this album, as I was still in an optimistic phase where I continually expected some bands to return to their previous glory. In this case, I wasn't too disappointed. I didn't get exactly what I wanted, but it was enjoyable in a different way. I picked this up, a few months later, at a record store in Stockholm. I'd already heard "Striving For A Piece of Lucifer", on my friend's rado program, so I was somewhat aware of what I was getting into. At that point, I was just satisfied to get another slab of ugly, primitive Black Metal from Darkthrone.

The album begins with a fairly useless intro, which doesn't really add anything to the song. "Rust" finally starts almost a minute in. From the first moments, a deadly cold atmosphere overtakes you. The dissonant open-arpeggio riffs create a desolate aura that is primitive and grim. As the drums kick in, the song moves along at a slow pace, with the raw guitars and rumbling bass providing the background for Nocturno Culto's hateful and misanthropic vocals. This feeling isn't very far from that present on Under A Funeral Moon, in a sense. As the song progresses, it gradually picks up speed and one can hear influences from the first Bathory album. A little past the half-way point, the trademark Darkthrone sound is unleashed, complete with tremolo riffs and pounding drums. Trash the worthless intro and alter the weak lyrics to match those of the old days, and this wouldn't have been too out of place on A Blaze in the Northern Sky. It's certainly one of the strongest songs on here, and a good way to start out the album.

"Det Svartner Nå" bears more of an up-beat tempo, returning to the Hellhammer / Celtic Frost style that they so often pay tribute to. It's not as bad here as on Ravishing Grimness, thanks to the more primitive production. The hideous sound and vicious vocal delivery really help and, somehow, the strong Rock vibe isn't so out of place. On the last couple of albums, this type of song would have stuck out a bit more, and not in a good way, but it seems to really fit in well and to add something to the overall feel of the record. The song ends with a riff that is completely reminiscent of Motörhead.

The next song is "Fucked Up and Ready To Die". It's the shortest track on the album, but definitely one of the most memorable. It begins with the fast-paced drums and tremolo riffs, sounding like a typical Darkthrone song. The atmosphere is much more gloomy than on the previous song. It utilizes a variety of tempos, going from fast to mid-paced and then slowing down even more with a bleak Doom riff, giving a morbid and hateful feeling. Things speed up again with a Punk / Metal approach, as the song reaches the end, and Nocturno Culto's vocals really convey a sense of hatred for life.

"Death just takes a moment
Suffering is forever"

"Ytterst I Livet" is one of two songs with a Norwegian title, though it's the only song to have absolutely no English lyrics at all. It's fairly mid-paced and uneventful. It speeds up, later on, but the song is still kind of average. Some of the transitions are a bit sudden. This, by no means, should be taken as an indication that it's bad; it's simply not one of the songs that jumps out at me. It's still a decent song, quite superior to most of what they'd release on subsequent albums.

This is followed by "Divided We Stand". At this point, it's probably evident that Fenriz has long since lost his ability to write the Satanic poetry of the past. His style is interesting, at times, but it can also be tiresome. Musically, the song features a nice tremolo riff, but with a complete Death Metal feeling, and has a little more energy than the previous song. The first minute is rather fast-paced (for this album), but it soon slows down. The tempo continues to alternate throughout, as this is quite a dynamic song. There are some interesting (almost mournful) melodies to be found here and, while it's not the greatest song on the record, it's very solid. The d-beat section at the end is quite memorable, as well. With Death, Black and Speed Metal riffs, mixed with a bit of Punk Rock, one can tell that the band was really loosening up at this stage of their career.

"Striving For A Piece of Lucifer" was the first song that I heard from this album, and it remains my favourite one. It erupts with a catchy riff, reminiscent of old Burzum, along with some double bass thundering underneath it. The riffing style is interesting and quite different from a lot of their earlier work. Either way, it's memorable and it works. It does contain more of a blackened rock feeling, at times, but it's ugly and primitive-sounding. One can really hear that Fenriz and Nocturno Culto seem to be more inspired and to have more energy on this album, compared to the previous few, as there is a certain liveliness that is present in the execution of these songs that was lacking for a few years. It really seems that the band had regressed, in some ways, as this is classic Black Metal that doesn't seem to have anything in common with whatever else was going in, this year.

"Some tombs will never be silent"

The album concludes with "In Honour of Thy Name", which starts out with something more akin to the classic sound of old. This is mixed in with the catchier, almost punk-like sections. I guess that's fitting, as this album was kind of the beginning of the more recent stage of their career. This is absolutely dripping with a primitive, old school atmosphere. There's also an old school Celtic Frost riff thrown in, for good measure. It serves to slow things down, briefly, and adds a darker feel to the track. The song speeds up again, before giving way to a pointless outro that is similar to the intro of the album. It's definitely got nothing on the intro/outro used on A Blaze in the Northern Sky, or even the intro from Plaguewielder, for that matter.

"Join the dead"

Hate Them isn't a return to the classic era of Darkthrone, yet it hearkens back to those days in its own way, going for an uglier and more primitive sound. This record actually marks the beginning of the band's modern phase, though many think that came later with The Cult Is Alive. It is here where they showed a sharp change in attitude, no longer giving a damn what anyone thought of them and just playing what they felt. While two of the songs are rather mediocre, the rest are actually pretty good so long as you're not expecting to hear the second coming of Transilvanian Hunger. If you open your mind and accept it for what it is (a bloody solid, old school-sounding record) then you'll certainly get your money's worth.