Posted by specialK February 26, 2013

Darkthrone is a legendary 2 piece metal band out of Norway that has left a huge mark in the annals of Heavy Metal History. Originally starting in the late 80s as a 4 piece Death Metal band, Darkthrone soon became disillusioned with the slick production & laid back skater attitudes of the genre. Ditching Death Metal's needed technical ability & gaudy imagery, Darkthrone retreated into the cold forests of Norway only to emerge as the masters of Black Metal. Now 21 years after the release of their seminal Black Metal LP A Blaze In The Northern Sky, Darkthrone have released their 15th record; The Underground Resistance. 21 years is a long time & the 2 members of Darkthrone - Fenriz & Nocturno Culto - have gradually moved on to a more old school sound pissing off many die hard Black Metal fans in the process. You have to be doing something right if haters are summoning the Dark Lord to strike you down because they don't like the new LP. Anyway, I e-mailed Fenriz some goofy questions and some serious questions & he was kind enough to answer them. In this interview Fenriz schools us on the 80s Punk & Metal Crossover & reveals that memories of old samurai movies make him feel all warm & fuzzy inside. Darkthrone's latest release The Underground Resistance is available now on Peaceville Records

I have to say, I was a bit skeptical when I saw that "Leave No Cross Unturned" (the 1st song released off TUR LP) was 14 minutes long. Anything more than 5 minutes throws up red flags for me, but Darkthrone pulled it off. While the song incorporates many different metal styles, it flows and never drags. You guys could have taken the easy way out and made 3 different songs of that track. "Leave No Cross Unturned" truly is an epic song.

Fenriz: I think the easy way out was to NOT make it into 3 songs, hahah! Anyway, I told Ted (aka Nocturno Culto) that I thought the final version was too long and I was pondering fading it at like 9 minutes. But then he asked me to really really reconsider and I…killed my darling by not killing my darling idea…if that makes any sense. If you want another song that we both love, which is long but has around 24 riffs in it, is from 1986 and is an instrumental, even, try English Dogs' EPILOGUE. One of the best instrumentals in metal EVER. I’ve played it to death.

Seems we both think of EPIC as in “LONG ASS PIECE OF TIME” but on this journo time around (this is my 54th interview for the album) and a lot of them have called my VALKYRIE track epic. And you know what, I think they are right! Epic is probably more of an attitude and feeling. So that leaves out the sure-shot way of making something epic (for us meaning just making something that drags out time wise), that means a whole lotta people out there go “yeah, it’s long, but it ain’t EPIC”. I like their version of epic more than my own.

On a side note, I found an old Darkthrone logo I drew, but we never used it as other logos got in the way. On the logo it actually says DEATH EPIC DOOM, it was the style we were doing in 88.

One thing that struck me about the last few Darkthrone LPs are the vocals. You sound like you are really having fun on "Leave No Cross Unturned." Why do you think so many metal fans have such an aversion to clean vocals?

Fenriz: I think I am way more serious and worried about end result when doing those vocals, than some witchy croaking vocalist that just goes through the motion trying to sound like mr. hat from the first Gorgoroth stuff. Doing vocals like that, I am in early 80s mode and at that time we have finally philosophized and answered that the reason so many vocalists could sing back then was that it was normal. Then all of us wanted the distorted vocals, if it was light like Quorthon or dark like Death or both – like Napalm Death etc. and that completely took over as heavy metal died 86 and onwards, and it didn’t really start to resurrect until 00’s although bands like Slough Feg came out with their first album already in 98 doing classic metal. Anyhow, now we have BOTH type of vocals IN VOGUE but we ALL fucked around with metal for so long and was so removed from the whole NWOBHM thing since 86 that THE RETURN to it has been baby steps. The growling was a reaction against most metal sounding alike in the early 80s. We don’t have that these days, we have the whole plethora of styles at the same time. Everyone agrees that rap and new metal suxx, so the entire metal world looks better than ever, probably, considering it expanded by 500% since early 80s.

The title of the new record is The Underground Resistance. What does that mean to you? I mean, is there truly an underground anymore? It seems as though the internet has pulled us all together diluting any underground that was there to begin with.

Fenriz: Underground attitude is soldiering the organic sound, the real sound, trying to set the foot down when bands that WANT to sound like 1985 choose a 1995 clean sound instead.

Overground attitude is wanting to sound and be like Dimmu no matter how myopic your chances are.

The overground is the glitter, the underground is the substance. All the glitter came from something the underground once created. Only the overground fucked it up so that the NORMAL PUBLIC could “get it”.

Ok, this question is solely for me. I have some strong feelings about the 80's crossover. While it did introduce some great music to different audiences, I feel that in the long run the crossover ultimately did more harm than good and wound up corrupting both the hardcore punk & metal scenes. What's your opinion of the 80's crossover ? Was it a "Don't cross the streams!" thing or do you think it was a positive step?

Fenriz: As with all styles, there are good and bad things. Take a look at Agnostic Front's 1986 album Cause For Alarm. Mostly standard riffs, safely written (rumours go at least, bad Fenriz listening to rumours) by Peter Steele, but with Roger Miret's great vocals. Same year, same album cover artist, the amazing 1st CRUMBSUCKERS album. It gets little attention next to Agnostic Front, but Crumbsuckers on that album have almost NO standard riffs, but STILL have the ferocity of hardcore. So how is it possible that the world did not fall down and worship Crumbsuckers but instead the humdrum Agnostic Front?

The crossover was great because it led me to search for the bands that LEAD to the crossover!!! Many others didn’t search, they just followed the ever more removed from hardcore style until 94 where almost all so-called NYHC sounded like metal with bass, drums without bass, soulless hollows of bands. Old school my ass. Compared to real hardcore it was embarrassing, and Pro Pain was in the middle of it and incredibly enough I bought it and tried to like it in 92, 93 and even more incredible it was Crumbsuckers members who there was killing the HC spirit.

Aaanyway, it is a generation thing, but I’ve seen younger generation use the internet in incredible ways, I had bad taste also as a kid, but further cultivation grinds away the bad taste. Kids of the new generation use the net to get heads up on what’s cool and not, they use 4 minutes to find out that if they want to explore HC more they gotta listen to Minor Threat and not Pro Pain. I am using Pro Pain as example, there have been hundreds of other names. The whole scene since early 90s saturated by the WRONG sound. I actually think, for all the professionality they have, that hardcore did NOT need to have back in 84, Champion is one of the bands (at least on the album I own, PROmISES KEPT). I respect their choice of organic sound. Not a messy or raw sound, but at least it’s organic.

The crossover was a necessity, it was about everyone being into THE FAST aspect, in the 80s things got more and more spastic, no one played riffs more than 4 times… with bands like Burzum in the 90s, no wonder the Godflesh album sold so well and got so much attention in 1989. It was the first monotone “metal” act in a sea of spastics, more or less. Also, the 3rd Bathory album was monotone BUT TOO AHEAD OF ITS TIME. That’s why black metal got more attention in early 90s, people were more ready for monotony then than in 86. And you can take that to the BANK!!!

I look around and I see people with Celtic Frost & Destruction patches on denim vests! It seems as though people are moving beyond the Black Metal aesthetics and into Thrash & NWOBHM. Hipsters love the skinny jeans and sneakers! What do you think about these trends? Do you think the aesthetics of heavy metal are bringing more listeners to the table or is it just a novelty? Somebody has to be listening or we wouldn't be seeing Iron Maiden Vans Sneakers. We're talking "Number of the Beast" here, not "The Final Frontier"!

Fenriz: First, I had regular shoes. Then basketball sneakers, then I was against it in 1990 getting expensive cowboy boots, then the stupid BM boots that actually Glen Benton and Morbid Angel brought to the party (I wore them a lot too, one of my regrets haha), then it was sneakers again, then it was boots AND sneakers like it is now. I’ve been through a lot but if you look “right” like many of the Swedes do, they look like 1983 for some years now, we in Norway get suspicious, we’re kinda more “can’t dress” or DELIVERANCE movie compared to the Swedes… But we have all sorts.

The worst is everything the 90s brought, with tribal tattoos and mall-bought black metal goth image. But even that was extremely risky and felt very personal in 1991 cuz NO ONE was doing it then… it’s all about starting something up and then someone looks at what you’re doing and then suddenly there is a whole crowd, and then you lose concentration and interest and you just go away. Let the others fuck up what you started cuz you tried to tell 'em how, but many didn’t really get it. But you can take it as a metaphor for creating music and being into underground “looks” as well. Bottom line is that it’s complicated, WE know that we communicate with these clothes, but does the communication come from a starter or a follower? Anyway as long as I can keep my mind in the game, I can say that I don’t care what CORSAIR looks like, I didn’t know before I heard the music. And a band like CRUSH from Greece, 1993 album, playing TOTAL 1984 straight heavy metal but looking black metal as hell…very confusing, very fantastic. Dunno if its cool or not, it just IS for those who KNOW.

Anyway, I sure as shit can’t dress, I dress PRAGMATIC. Wearing Lundhags trousers for years, every time I find trousers I like I buy like 5 of them so I have for years and years. It’s ok to dress up for photos if people wanna do that, I wore jeans for a long time in the 90s but switched to hiking trousers cuz it was practical first for forest use and then I found out I liked having many pockets with lots of shit in them. Boys will be boys. If I wanna dress up I just change to some bell bottom corduroy my GF got me coupla years ago.

Speaking of aesthetics, the art for The Underground Resistance looks great! Did Jim Fitzpatrick create it specifically for the record?

Fenriz: Hell no, it was just Ted who said he wanted something else for the cover and I said fine, and contacted (Vice Contributor)Dylan Hughes (google him, he’s important in the metal scene) and he found that image and we said GREAT! And Ted said he wanted it in brown and then we had to pay the artist like $1000 to use the image but that’s ok since we have always had normal jobs on the side.

What's your favorite samurai movie & why? (I've been watching the Criterion Collection.....)

Fenriz: Haven’t seen one since early 80s. Then it was always talk about these two? Old black samurai movies that were so legendary. They went on matinée TV time in the time between X-mas and New Years, I remember. It was ok, it was a good question cuz I had not thought about that nice school holiday feeling for a long time and now my mind go all warm and fuzzy with memories. Those holidays are always cold in Norway.

Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions. Do you have any last words or advice for our readers?

Fenriz: Don’t forget to listen to HOUR OF 13!


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