Since their emergence from the notorious scene of the 90’s, DARKTHRONE has avidly traversed the metal spectrum, along with punk and other rock excursions, and now the legendary riff masters are back with their nineteenth full-length creation titled Eternal hails…… This new offering further embodies the raw essence of metal, and its five massive compositions expand on previously conquered territory while focusing intently on a tribute to doom. The self-description of “epic black heavy metal” is fitting for the dense riffing structures and other elements that develop throughout, and it’s all executed in DARKTHRONE’s signature organic style. Eternal Hails…… delivers pure metal that demonstrates Norway’s timeless prestige, and it carries the riff to heightened glory for an experience of crushing magnitude.
A dark fate is sealed with the ominous drone and arpeggiated gloom on “His Master’s Voice” while cymbal taps kick off a classic heavy vibe. Grimness builds with the onset of Nocturno Culto’s harsh vocals, along with the icy glaring strikes of a blackened groove, and a melodic passage develops through accented notes before thrashing toward a culmination of pounding intensity. A break of slow doom follows with a melancholic solo, and the crushing power of chords evolves and continues on “Hate Cloak.” This force harmonizes with its melodic counterpart before turning to a Sabbath-infused riff, and the sinister crunch of distortion is fully displayed when the pace quickens. A soloing interlude appears within this monstrous development before a series of slower transitions with sliding notes and other dense qualities drive the prevailing heaviness. Raw tremolo melodies materialize in the midst of a relentless pulse as it moves toward an end, and the vocals amplify their cavernous echoing as riff and drum arrangements carry out their closing assault.
Slower tempos are given contrast with the prevalent mid-pace of “Wake of the Awakened” as tremolo riffs converge in dissonance. This effect progresses with the distinct eeriness of notes emphasized during a rhythmic shift, and it leads to a passage of blackened heaviness with ambience to augment its imposing darkness. Classic riffing and melody delve into a crushing fury after rising from these gloomy depths, and it builds into a mass of epic metal intensity by incorporating thrashy and tremolo variations. A haunting euphoria initiates the “Voyage to a North Pole Adrift,” and structures of dissonant melody and doom manifest within its pulsating rhythms before a rapid transition into elevated groove. A momentous force is conjured as the thickness and menacing tones increase in the riffage, and its cumulative immensity reaches transcendent heights through the soaring effects of a solo. The unsettling melody returns to signal imminent closure, along with spoken revelations that bring further dread, and mysteriously subtle distortions are detected as it yields to a final doom-laden procession on “Lost Arcane City of Uppåkra.” These arrangements embody ancient energies while rhythmic fluctuations unleash a flow of malevolence that leaves desolation in its wake. Clean notes emerge from this calm, along with entrancing effects that expand and merge with a mournful riff to set off a definitively heavy and atmospheric finale.
Sinister portrayals continue with lyrics involving death, darkness, and occult influences, while the emphasis on doom is further reflected in contempt and depressive themes. Contemplations of transient states and “what could have been” are related on “His Master’s Voice,” along with desires for new life as death approaches. The mysteries and other worlds are revealed in the torn veil on “Hate Cloak” while “drastic spells” are cast by those who prefer “exile and gloom.” This reclusive tone proudly continues on “Wake of the Awakened” with “decapitate sympathy” and “deny the helping hands.” It also expresses having “lesser and lesser in common with the humans” as “detachment rules supreme,” and despair overwhelms with the passage of time and a “denied closure.” The accelerating shift of the magnetic north pole is addressed on “Voyage to a North Pole Adrift,” which may have a metaphorical link or other implications concerning a “broken moral compass,” and it leads a venture into the void while describing life struggles, the prodigal son, and “altars of numb hope.” The mysterious archeological ruins and spirit of an ancient Scandinavian city are unearthed on “Lost Arcane City of Uppåkra,” and it mentions “a house of ancient cults” with the means to defeat the “curse of Christ.” A final verse in Norwegian affirms a resistance to Christianity while highlighting the importance of spiritual purity and freedom. Other contextual nuances appear throughout and allude to deeper meanings within the lyrics, but they also retain a degree of obscurity while conjuring imagery that parallels the metal ethos of the music.
A new DARKTHRONE release is always a welcome treat, and their creative zeal remains steadfast on Eternal hails…… with a vitality that rejuvenates the 80’s spirit. It effectively combines a variety of riffing styles with a large dose of doom to craft a unique amalgam of metal expressions, and its epic developments are enhanced by the calculated use of ambient elements while keeping the traditional raw atmosphere at the core. These are lengthy tracks that may not be easily accessible at first, but proper devotions of time and attention will yield a rewarding experience full of headbanging and fist pump inducements through the glorious times of the past. I’ve enjoyed the path DARKTHRONE has traveled with their last couple efforts and look forward to seeing which realms they will engage in the future. This streak continues with Eternal Hails……, which is surely a 2021 highlight appealing to metal preferences that go beyond black.