DARKTHRONE - A BLAZE IN THE NORTHERN SKY Vinyl LP
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Heavy metal has always championed the darker things in life, but whatever they might say in their interviews, most bands are really just mugging for the press, fronting a fantasy image for the benefit of their impressionable young fans. But all bets are off when it comes to the infamous Norwegian black metal scene, where in the early '90s popular bands like Mayhem, Emperor, and Burzum saw key members charged with real-life acts of crime ranging from church burnings to outright murder. Standing just outside this macabre "inner circle," as it was called, was the Oslo-based Darkthrone, whose mentorship under scene leader (and later, most notorious victim) Euronymous began to bear fruit with their third album, A Blaze in the Northern Sky. Unlike many of their peers -- whose hellish symphonies were often overblown, ultra-complex affairs influenced by classical and Scandinavian folk music -- Darkthrone's was a more straightforward approach. Their bloated lengths aside (see the ten-minute "Kathaarian Life Code"), the songs of A Blaze in the Northern Sky remain relatively uncluttered, and the album's lo-fi production values only serve to highlight their raw, visceral power. The excellent "Paragon Belial" is especially memorable, and with their ghostly pancake makeup only adding to the kids' delight (hey it worked for Kiss, right?), what else could one ask for in the way of dreary, oppressive black metal? ~ Eduardo Rivadavia