If you’re expecting an old school second wave black metal record from Norwegian stalwarts, Darkthrone, with Old Star, you are going to be vastly disappointed. On the other hand, if you are looking for a rather novel take on traditional 80’s metal, Old Star is most definitely for you.
To be quite honest, I’ve grown rather tired of the A Blaze in the Northern Sky and Under A Funeral Moon worship-type records. (Go ahead, take my black metal inner circle club card away from me – lol!) Those records have been done, redone, done again and then uber-nostalgically done. Enough. And, unsurprisingly, Darkthrone seems to have ascended past that phase of their careers as well and moved on… or moved back… a bit to their earlier roots.
While Darkthrone has more recently delved into crust-punk, speed metal, thrash and punk, Old Star has very little of that. Instead, the duo slow things down and let those riffs simmer down a bit. Riffs beyond riffs here – with some tremolo – and it totally works!
“The Hardship of the Scots” is a standout track, both for its structure in the respect that it takes the listener through three rather distinct movements, but also because of the (seldom heard) amount of rhythm and downright groove present towards the conclusion of the song. It’s rare to hear any bass at all in a Darkthrone song, yet here we are in this particular song with some really well done rhythms between Nocturno Culto and Fenriz.
“Old Star,” like many of the songs on the record of the same name gives a nod to old school heavy metal with more traditional rhythms and riffs. There’s a hint of Tony Iommi in this track as well many sounds that harken back to the 1980s. Nothing wrong with that.
“I Muffle Your Inner Choir” is one of the faster tracks on the record and maybe the one that sounds most like “traditional” Darkthrone – at least in the last 15 years or so. But even with that being said, the track gets a bit sludgy about 5 minutes in. Similarly, “The Duke of Gloat” is uptempo and features some great not-too-fast- tremolo guitar about four minutes in – with an eventual lead guitar solo on top of it. Fairly rare in Darkthrone territory, but this band is known, of course, for pushing boundaries regularly, and with a great deal of success.
“The Key Inside the Wall” again features some pretty nice groove and tempo changes. It’s a heavy song, but not too heavy. “Alp Man” is also heavy but with less groove and maybe a bit of Cathedral thrown in.
Look, there are some people who are going to hate this record because it’s not “black metal,” and if you are hoping for the next Under a Funeral Moon, you’re going to pretty upset with Old Star. Of course, Darkthrone stopped writing records like that decades ago, and they are really better for it.
Darkthrone’s Old Star was released on May 31st via Peaceville Records. Order your copy here.