The band that would become Darkthrone formed in late 1986 in Kolbotn, a small suburb of Oslo. They were a death metalband by the name of Black Death whose members were Gylve Nagell, Ivar Enger, Lee Hartney, Ben Mote and Anders Risberget. Main inspirations were Venom, Celtic Frost, Slayer and Cryptic Slaughter. In fall 1987, the band changed their name to Darkthrone and were joined by Dag Nilsen. Ted Skjellumjoined in spring of 1988. During 1988 and 1989, the band independently released four demo tapes: Land of Frost, A New Dimension, Thulcandra, and Cromlech.
They were subsequently signed to the independent record label Peaceville Recordswith a four-album contract. In 1990, they recorded their first studio album, Soulside Journey. Because of a small recording budget, the band could not afford the kind of studio they wanted but, thanks to the members of Nihilist and Entombed, they were able to record their album at Sunlight Studios. Although mainly death metal in style, there were some elements of black metal present in terms of artwork and songwriting.
Immediately following the release of this album, the band continued writing and recording new material, recording every new song on tape until it was a full album. These demos were entirely instrumental but they demonstrated the band’s gradual shift towards black metal. In 1997, they would be released on the compilation album Goatlord.
Early black metal years: 1991–1994
During 1991, Darkthrone adopted the aesthetic style that would come to represent the black metal scene, wearing corpse paint and working under pseudonyms. Gylve Nagell became “Fenriz”, Ted Skjellum became “Nocturno Culto” and Ivar Enger became “Zephyrous”. In August 1991, they recorded their second album, which was released at the beginning of 1992 and titled A Blaze in the Northern Sky. The album contained Darkthrone’s first black metal recordings, and Peaceville Records was originally skeptical about releasing it due to Darkthrone’s extreme diversion from their original death metal style. After the album was recorded, bassist Dag Nilsen left the band, and is merely credited as “session bass” with no picture on the album.
The band’s third album, Under a Funeral Moon, was recorded in the summer of 1992 and released in early 1993. It marked Darkthrone’s total conversion to the black metal style, and is considered a landmark for the development of the genre as a whole. This album also marked the last album on which guitarist Zephyrous would perform.
It was followed by their fourth album, Transilvanian Hunger, which was released in February 1994. This was Darkthrone’s first album to have just two members, Nocturno Culto and Fenriz. The band would remain a duo from this point onwards. Transilvanian Hungerwas characterized by a very “raw” or “low fidelity” recording style and musical simplicity. The album’s release caused some controversy: some of its lyrics were written by the infamous Norwegian black metal musician Varg Vikernes, and its booklet contained the phrase “Norsk Arisk Black Metal”, which translates into English as “Norwegian Aryan Black Metal”.
With Moonfog Records: 1995–2004
Darkthrone moved to another independent record label, Moonfog Productions, for subsequent releases. The label was run by Satyr of the black metal band Satyricon.
Their fifth album, Panzerfaust, was released in 1995. The album was received well, although its production, which is similar to that of Transilvanian Hunger, encountered some criticisms. Their sixth album, Total Death, was released during 1996 and is notable for featuring lyrics written by four other black metal musicians, and none at all written by the group’s main lyricist Fenriz.
During the years 1993–1995, drummer Fenriz was involved with numerous side projects. This included his solo ambient project Neptune Towers, recording an album with Satyr as the trio Storm, and playing bass on Dødheimsgard’s debut album. Also he began playing drums for Valhall again, after having been one of the founding members in 1988 but leaving in 1990 to concentrate on Darkthrone.
In 1999, Darkthrone released the album Ravishing Grimness, and in 2001 their following album, Plaguewielder. While Transilvanian Hungerand Panzerfaust had songs written solely by Fenriz, these two albums had songs mostly written by Nocturno Culto and were both recorded in Ronny Le Tekrøe’s studio at Toten, Norway. This explains the somewhat “clearer” sound on those records.
In the last years of the 1990s, two Darkthrone tribute albums were released: Darkthrone Holy Darkthrone in 1998 and The Next Thousand Years Are Ours in 1999. The band also released Preparing for War, a compilation of songs from 1988–1994. In 2002, the intro of their song “Kathaarian Life Code” appeared in the last scene of the film Demonlover.
In 2003, the band released the album Hate Them. Although this record and their next contain electronicintroductions, they remain true to Darkthrone’s early black metal style. Sardonic Wrath was released in 2004. It was the band’s last album with Moonfog Productions and their last to be recorded solely in the black metal style. This album was nominated for Norway’s Alarm Awards; however, the album’s entry was withdrawn at the band’s request. Their next releases would feature strong crust punk traits.
Change in direction: 2005–present
In 2005, Darkthrone confirmed that they had returned to Peaceville Records, after leaving the record label in 1994. They had also started up their own record label, Tyrant Syndicate Productions, to release their future albums. To celebrate their return, Peaceville re-issued the Preparing for Warcompilation with a bonus CD of demos and a DVD of live performances. Darkthrone’s first four albums were also re-released with video interviews about each of them.
Darkthrone released their eleventh album, The Cult Is Alive, during early 2006. The album represented a shift in the band’s style as the music incorporated crust punk traits. While Darkthrone’s black metal roots were still evident, their shift from the genre’s typical sound was more noticeable. The Cult Is Alive was the first Darkthrone album to appear on the album chart in Norway, debuting at number 22.
In July 2007, the band released the EP NWOBHM (an acronym for ‘New wave of black heavy metal’, a take-off on the original ‘New wave of British heavy metal’) as a preview for their next album. In September that year, Darkthrone released the album F.O.A.D. (an acronym for Fuck Off and Die). The phrase was used by many thrash metal and punk bands during the 1980s. While the music partially continued the punk-oriented style that was introduced on The Cult Is Alive, this time the band focused more on traditional heavy metal.
Also during 2007, Nocturno Cultocompleted and released The Misanthrope, a film about black metal and life in Norway. It includes some of his own solo recordings. In October 2008, Dark Thrones and Black Flags was released, using much the same style as the previous album. In 2010, the band released the album Circle the Wagons, which again mixed crust punk along with speed metal and traditional heavy metal.
In late 2010, Peaceville acquired the rights to the band’s Moonfog albums and re-issued Panzerfaust as a two-disc set and on vinyl. The re-issue of Total Death was set for March 14, 2011. In July 2012, Darkthrone announced a new album, titled The Underground Resistance; it was released on February 25, 2013. The band released their 16th studio album, titled Arctic Thunder, on October 14, 2016.
On October 22, 2016, the band revealed via Facebook that they would be issuing a compilation album entitled The Wind of 666 Black Hearts. The album, released November 25, 2016, is composed of demos recorded in 1991 and 1992 for songs which later appeared on A Blaze In the Northern Skyand Under a Funeral Moon.
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Arctic Thunder / 2016
The Underground Resistance / 2013
Circle the Wagons / 2010
Dark Thrones and Black Flags / 2008
F.O.A.D. / 2007
The Cult Is Alive / 2006
Sardonic Wrath / 2004
Hate Them / 2003
Plaguewielder / 2001
Ravishing Grimness / 1999
Total Death / 1996
Panzerfaust / 1995
Transilvanian Hunger / 1994
Under a Funeral Moon / 1993
A Blaze in the Northern Sky / 1992
Soulside Journey / 1991
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