Graded on a Curve: Darkthrone,
Transilvanian Hunger

Darkthrone vocalist Nocturno Culto sounds like Sonic Youth in dire need of a tonsillectomy. Which is fine by me, seeing as how Kim Gordon can’t sing her way out of a Chinese restaurant takeout carton and Thurston Moore’s cooler-than-thou vocals make me want to call the nearest hipster removal service. No, I’ll take Culto’s cartoonish Cookie Monster gutterals any day. He’s that enraged guy in the 12-items-or-less checkout line going full roid rage at the asshole ahead of him trying to sneak by with 13.

But what, I’ll bet you’re wondering, does Norge’s Darkthrone have to do with the East Village’s most renowned (and long defunct) art shlock band in the first place? Just this. Darkthrone’s that most unexpected of things–a Norwegian art rock death metal band.

On 1994’s Transilvanian Hunger, the duo of Culto (who sings) and Frenriz (who plays everything else) say to hell with melody in favor of a relentless metal drone. Subtle modulations in tone are the order of the day, all of the songs sound pretty much the same, and what you’re left with is a monotone wall of sound that will either bliss you out like a month in an orgone accumulator or leave you trying to squeeze your way through the dog door to get away from it. As a founding member of The Metal Machine Music Fan Club, I fall squarely into the former category.

Are there differences between the songs on Transilvanian Hunger and those on Sonic Youth’s Confusion Is Sex? Yes, and here’s the surprise–like it or not all you NYC art rock elitists, Darkthrone’s the more avant-garde noise rock band by far. Fuck the East Village; seems Norway’s long polar nights are enough to turn your average Ansgar with a guitar into the next Glenn Branca.

Transilvanian Hunger sparked controversy and condemnation with its album booklet identifying Darkthrone’s music as “Norwegian Aryan Black Metal” and its lyrics by infamous murderer/neo-Nazi/church burner/black metal musician Varg Vikernes. Darkthrone has long since repudiated and apologized for its odious views, but the stench lingers–seems Norway’s long polar nights can do more than just spawn little Nordic Glenn Brancas.

Transilvanian Hunger isn’t just the one of the best black metal album I’ve ever heard; take away Culto’s death growl and it’s one of the best drone LPs I’ve ever heard period. On Transilvanian Hunger Darkthrone burns the Norwegian black metal rule book and buries you alive in 39 minutes of black metal sludge. Forget about your parental advisory labels–Transilvanian Hunger should come with an avalanche warning.

GRADED ON A CURVE:
A

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