Home > Music > Darkthrone – A Blaze In The Northern Sky (1992)

Darkthrone – A Blaze In The Northern Sky (1992)

folderThis is one of those reviews that kept getting delayed for various reasons, including “Hey, I could’ve sworn I wrote about this!” and “Is that band playing BURP METAL?” It’s a shame, really, because A Blaze In The Northern Sky was the ultimate grower for me – something I could not appreciate at all when I first heard it (compare to, Mayhem, for instance, which I ‘got’ quicker) and furthermore, something which I could not really penetrate until I learned the joys of its successors. These days, it is indispensable, and while you will hear similar sentiments across the internet, the choirs always have room for one more preacher.

If you ask me, what distinguishes this album from the Darkthrone surrounding it (on both ends) is an elevated sense of pomp and melodrama. A Blaze In The Northern Sky is full of extended compositions, but furthermore explores more moods than the monotone creepiness of Soulside Journey or Under A Funeral Moon. The compositions contain great variety of tempo and even dynamics, as the acoustic interlude of “In The Shadow of the Horns” may forcibly make you aware, but ironically the band may owe much of this to their scrabble for the growing Norwegian black metal movement. The title track, for instance, first took shape during the abandoned Goatlord sessions (which are worthy of discussion and will probably come up in about 5-10 years, once I get around to actually listening) as a midpaced death metal track before being retrofitted with blasts and newly screamed vocals. The other songs may have slightly more recent origins, but the point still stands that, at least in places, Darkthrone had a long way to go before their roots were rendered unrecognizable. Darkthrone’s front end, though, was a simple task to swap out, as possibly evidenced by the fact they did it again on every following album for some time. Immediately trebley and abrasive where Soulside Journey was bassy and occasionally anemic, A Blaze In The Northern Sky is hardly high fidelity, and is probably a good early example of black metal production being calculated towards such unfriendly ends as opposed to simply arising naturally from lack of budget and studio resources. Shades of early (pre-Viking) Bathory and Tormentor, really; Darkthrone’s influences may be fairly obvious early European underground metal, but they’re worthy of mention, especially here where the distance between the band and earlier bands had yet to really reveal itself.

There are thousands of people out in the world who have written on Darkthrone, and all of the points I’ve made here have been trodden to death, brought back to a cruel imitation of life, and beaten again, even my suggestion of possible redundancy. Still, without this album, the rawer and filthier sides of black metal would perhaps remain denied to me.

Highlights: “Kathaarian Life Code”, “Paragon Belial”, “Where Cold Winds Blow”

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