Darkthrone was originally formed as a death metal band, under the name Black Death in 1986. Several demo tapes were recorded, which eventually caught the interest of the British label Peaceville, who signed them under a four-album contract. Black Death later changed their name to Darkthrone and recorded their debut album Soulside Journey in 1991. This featured the first lineup of Nocturno Culto (vocals/guitar), Zephyrous (guitar), Dag Nielsen (bass) and Fenriz (drums). Notice they used occult pseudonyms back then, barring Dag Nielsen. The album was a standard death metal album; clean production, technical riffs and drumming, growled vocals, progressive song structures and such like, inspired by the likes of early death metal bands such as Death.DARKTHRONE GENRES
However, the up and rising black metal scene in Norway made an impact on Darkthrone, who promptly switched from death metal to black metal, adopting the corpsepaint look and such like. Though due to Dag Nielsen's love for death metal, he decided to leave the band, but still played session bass on the band's next album. Darkthrone's first black metal album was released the same year as Soulside Journey, entitled A Blaze in the Northern Sky, now considered legendary as the first Darkthrone album. The band themselves however, according to interview, were very rushed with this album, and state that it wasn't as black metal as it could have been. This could be agreed with, as the production is cleaner than later releases, nevertheless dry, but substantially more clean than what they were to release in the future.
With a lot more time to write new material (roughly a year), Darkthrone began work on their next album, entitled Under a Funeral Moon. Released in 1993, UAFM is considered a landmark in black metal, probably with the longer amount of time given to write the songs and the amount of work put into the album. The production is very low-fi; very crisp but distant-sounding drums, washy but haunting guitar and beautifully rasped vocals. By this album, Dag Nielsen was no longer with Darkthrone at all, leaving the line-up as Nocturno Culto (vocals/bass), Zephyrous (guitar) and Fenriz (drums).
By 1994, Darkthrone had begun work on their last Peaceville album, their highly acclaimed Transilvanian Hunger. TH is probably Darkthrone's most well-known release, and is highly regarded as their best album, as well as typical Darkthrone. The band themselves think otherwise, as it is much faster than other work, and the riffs are far more melodic. This album marked the departing of Zephyrous from Darkthrone, leaving Nocturno Culto on vocals, guitar and bass duties and Fenriz on drums. Zephyrous' departing from the band is very much disputed, but Darkthrone insist that his last contribution was on Under a Funeral Moon.
Transilvanian Hunger marked Darkthrone's departing from Peaceville, leaving on a high if you will. For 1995's Panzerfaust album, Darkthrone switched to Moonfog Productions, owned by Satyr of Satyricon. The Panzerfaust album was Darkthrone's tribute to Celtic Frost, and is highly noticeable. However, the production of the album has recieved some criticism. It is naturally lo-fi, but the vocals are mixed so high that when they come in, the music seems to fade away. And with the vocals being deeper than other work and more guttural, it is more overwhelming.
The following release, 1996's Total Death, was an album that featured no lyrics written by Fenriz, who is normally Darkthrone's lyricist. Nocturno Culto penned 4 of 8 of the songs, the other 4 songs were written by Garm (from Ulver), Ihsahn (from Emperor), Satyr (from Satyricon) and Carl-Michael Eide (a common black metal drummer). Satyr also stepped in to do backing vocals.
1997 saw the release of Goatlord, which was in fact a rehearsal tape recorded between the release of Soulside Journey and A Blaze in the Northern Sky. At the time of the recording of Goatlord, Darkthrone were still a death metal band, and the album stylistically sounds rather jazzy and progressive, with Fenriz' discordant vocals. Being a simple rehearsal tape, the sound isn't exactly top quality, and is said to sound quite "acidic." Had it not been scrapped when the band decided to go black metal, it would have most likely been recorded professionally with a high sound quality.
The next release, 1999's Ravishing Grimness, sparked various criticism. Many "die-hard" fans claim the production is too "clean," while others (maybe the same people) criticise the lyrics, claiming them too be near to nosensical. The album takes more of a mid-paced tempo to it, as opposed to the hyper-fast earlier works. This naturally leaves more room for variation, particularly for drumming.
2001's release was Plaguewielder, which only consisted of 6 tracks. This album featured guest backing vocals from Sverre of Norwegian thrash band Audiopain, who Fenriz has wrote lyrics for in the past.
2003 saw the release of Hate Them, which could be considered the most experimental album that Darkthrone have released. It has an electronic intro and outro, made by Norwegian industrial band Red Harvest, both of which run for easily over 6 minutes. The shortest song on the album (the more well-known Fucked Up and Ready to Die) is 3:44 long; all the other songs reach over 5 minutes.
Sardonic Wrath, released in 2004, was only limited to 2000 copies. It was scheduled for release on September 6th 2004, but was released on the internet very prematurely in April of the same year. The actual release of the album in September differs considerably to the internet version from April.
Two years later in 2006, Darkthrone released the long-awaited The Cult Is Alive. The album varies greatly in style, as it incorporates a lot of evident crust punk influences, particularly on the song Graveyard Slut. The production values nevertheless remain very similar to previous work. The Cult Is Alive is also Darkthrone's first album to have a single released from it, Too Old Too Cold, which was also accompanied by the band's first ever music video. Their second single Forebyggende Krig was released on 7" vinly only.
Their next album will be called F.O.A.D., and is expected to be released in September 2007.
Death Metal (early) - Black Metal (now)
DARKTHRONE LYRICAL THEMES
Darkness, Occultism, Death, Black Metal
Norway (Kolbotn), formed in 1987
DARKTHRONE CURRENT RECORD LABEL
DARKTHRONE CURRENT LINE-UP
Fenriz (Gylve Fenris Nagell; b. Leif Nagell) - Drums, Vocals (ex-Isengard (Nor), ex-Valhall, ex-Neptune Towers, ex-Dødheimsgard, ex-Storm (Nor), Black Death (Nor))
Nocturno Culto (Ted Skjellum) - Guitars, Bass, Vocals (ex-Satyricon)
DARKTHRONE PREVIOUS LINE-UP
Dag Nilsen - Bass 1988-'91
Zephyrous (Ivar Enger) - Rhythm Guitar (1988-1995) (Black Death (Nor))
Anders Risberget - Guitars (1988)