Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Darkthrone - F.O.A.D. (2007)

F.O.A.D. is the 13th studio release from Norway's Darkthrone. It is their second album since returning to Peaceville and it continues along the same lines as the previous album, sometimes feeling more Punk than Metal. The members of Darkthrone have always been successful at reinventing themselves in order to remain relevant, to some extent. Again, for the thousands (or millions) that wanted yet another Transilvanian Hunger, they were disappointed for the ninth time. This record fully solidified the direction that had begun with Hate Them. One could say that The Cult Is Alive did this, but some may have still thought it a fluke. But this was the album that made it very clear that Darkthrone had no intention of regressing to their previous sound, nor of giving one damn what anyone thought of them. On the one hand, that's admirable. It's good to see a band doing what they believe in and not catering to anyone's expectations. On the other hand, they seem to spit in the face of the fans that prefer their earlier albums, sometimes to the point of speaking in a derogatory manner about those albums. Fenriz is more guilty of this than Nocturno Culto, as the latter usually speaks fondly of the early days. At any rate, in late September 2007, this album was released and, as expected, continued to keep the band surrounded by controversy.

The first samples of what would be found on this album came in the form of the NWOBHM E.P. I listened to this, in the summer of 2007, and was put off, quite a bit. It didn't make me eager for a new Darkthrone album; however, it did make me want to go listen to some old school Metal, such as Angel Witch and Exciter. I guess this is similar to the earlier albums helping with the sales of old Bathory and Celtic Frost records (so they claim). Anyway, it took me quite a while to, finally, give this album a full listen. What I found was something that both intrigued and disgusted me.

Production-wise, it's got the same primitive and under-produced sound as on the previous record. It sounds filthy, raw and old school. These are all very good qualities. As someone who gave up on them ever going back to their earlier style, all I can really ask for from Darkthrone is something ugly and cold. Despite the Punk influences, they still deliver in this regard. Vocally, Nocturno Culto isn't exactly at the top of his game, but I've heard worse. In any event, he's the more consistent of the two. As for Fenriz's vocal contributions... well, his are the type that have to grow on you. The main problem with the vocals of both members has to do with the awful lyrics. Surely, many good points are made throughout, but this is not how one writes lyrics for a Metal album. Fenriz really lost it, and looks as if he's not even trying anymore.

On the bright side, the album possesses many good riffs. The main riff from "These Shores Are Damned" is actually very good, while also being memorable. It's kind of a mixture of Black Metal, Thrash and Punk, with some emphasis on the Black Metal feeling. Call it what you want, but the atmosphere is still dreary and autumnal. The song manages to get better as it goes along. That seems to be the case with several of these.

"Canadian Metal" pays homage to bands such as Sacrifice, Slaughter and the mighty Razor. Sadly, the music lacks the kind of energy and force that those bands were known for. Thankfully, a decent tremolo riff shakes things up, mid-way through. There seems to be a formula for the songs, as they unleash their most memorable moments during the latter half.

"The Church of Real Metal" has a ridiculous title, but the riffs aren't too bad. Again, they get more memorable as they go along. As a fan of old Darkthrone, there's not a massive amount that I find worth my time, here. However, as someone that has an appreciation for tons of 80s Metal (having grown up with it), as well as some Punk bands like GBH, this approach has a way of growing on me. The last couple riffs really leave a good impression.

The first thing I think of as soon as "The Banners of Old" begins is Black Sabbath. The mid-paced riff gives way to a tremolo riff, which serves as a transition to a somber riff that haunts your mind. Say what you will about the goofy lyrics, the terrible song titles and the sub-par vocals; these two have a way with the old school riffs.

The title track really gives that Punk feeling (at least, to the ears of someone not terribly educated on the subject). It has, probably, the worst vocals of the album, up to this point. They're done in a really cheey manner, which would make you want to skip to the next track; however, there's a trademark Darkthrone riff that pops up and keeps you listening, at least for a bit longer. It's a shame that they don't try a little harder to maintain some serious feeling, but perhaps that is part of what they're attempting to get away from with these later records.

"Splitkein Fever" starts out with a healthy pace, though not being very fast. The riffs have a dismal feeling, though the lyrics are weak as hell, for the most part. I get the point being made, but it seems that there was no effort put toward approaching this in a creative manner. Again, the riffs get better as the song goes on. If you can get past the vocals, it's not half bad. That really sums up the whole album, in a sense.

"My world is cold and white"

The next song really takes the feeling, that this album is a jam session, to the next level. More good points are made, lyrically, but it's absolutely not subject matter for Metal lyrics. The vocal approach is bloody awful as well, making this very hard to get into. To make matters worse, the music isn't even worth suffering through the rest. There is a cool solo, near the end, so my advice would be to just skip the first couple minutes of the song and go for that. Otherwise, this one's pointless and laughable.

"Pervertor of the 7 Gates" opens with a pretty good doom riff, which wouldn't be out of place on a Sabbath record. As the song progresses, the riff changes to something more in line with Celtic Frost, though it's hard to tell as it's a bit low in the mix, during the first verse. The volume seems to level out, afterward. There's a half-decent solo, later on, but nothing too important going on here.

The final song is "Wisdom of the Dead", which starts out with a great tremolo riff that is accompanied by sloppy drumming. The song is rather repetitive, but solid. It possesses fewer faults than most of the other songs, so it earns a few points for that. The primary riff sounds very much like something that could have been found on an earlier Darkthrone album, so it's good to see that they've retained some elements of their previous sound.

All in all, this is an album for either completists or those simply more into 80s Metal than modern stuff. It's got a ton of problems, mostly regarding the vocals and lyrics. If you can get past all of that, there are some good riffs waiting to be found. However, one has to question whether or not it's worth the effort considering that there are better albums out there.