Darkthrone‘s journey is eternal.
Since 1987 (or 1986 under the name Black Death), the band composed of Fenriz (drums/vocals/guitar/bass, Valhall, ex-Dødheimsgard, ex-Isengard, ex-Eibon) and Nocturno Culto (guitar/vocals/bass, Sarke, Gift of Gods, ex-Satyricon) has marked Black Metal with cult albums. For the past few years, they have been experimenting without worrying about style barriers, and their twentieth album, Astral Fortress, is a perfect example of it.
Playing a recent Darkthrone album is to expect everything, never knowing what the next riff will be made of. And this is precisely what Caravan Of Broken Ghosts will make us understand with its soft introduction which is quickly broken by a slow but abrasive and dissonant saturation. Vocals perfectly match this Doom atmosphere and its melodious harmonics, also letting some more energetic parts express themselves before Impeccable Caverns Of Satan offers some rather dark Heavy accents. The track remains quite haunting, but it is also quite contemplative and accessible, unlike Stalagmite Necklace which offers a jerky sound, contrasted by airy and mystical keyboards. The sound is ominous again on The Sea Beneath The Seas Of The Sea and its soaring effects, and we find this Old School approach again in oppressive riffs which emerged from the older tracks, but with a different sound which fits this dynamic very well, but the track is long and the band doesn’t hesitate to give epic accents to leads before letting a short strange riff lead us to Kevorkian Times, a more raw composition. Although the approach remains rather slow, the band also seems to dip into motivating sounds to embellish its march, then Kolbotn, West Of The Vast Forests offers us a short moment of rest accompanied by worrying tones on keyboard. The band closes its album with Eon 2, a track that echoes the last track of their first album Soulside Journey, but which sounds relatively heavier and which also welcomes some vocal parts to go with this airy and dissonant rhythmic.
If you are nostalgic for the first albums, go back and listen to them. Darkthrone has evolved, and while the band has been able to make their mark on Black Metal, they are now evolving into a different mix. The Old School vibe and sounds remain, but Astral Fortress is much more experimental.