1987 – present (34 years)
Kolbotn, Oppegård, Akershus, Norway
- Dag Nilsen (1987 – 1991)
- Fenriz (1986 – present)
- Nocturno Culto (1986 – present)
- Zephyrous (1988 – 1993)
Darkthrone is a black metal band from Kolbotn, Norway, formed in 1986 as a death metal band under the name Black Death. In 1991, the band embraced a black metal style influenced by Bathory and Celtic Frost and became one of the leading bands in the Norwegian black metal scene. Their first three black metal albums—A Blaze in the Northern Sky (1992), Under a Funeral Moon (1993) and Transilvanian Hunger (1994)—are sometimes dubbed the "Unholy Trinity". They are considered the peak of the band's black metal career and to be among the most influential albums in the genre.
Darkthrone has been a duo of Fenriz and Nocturno Culto since guitarist Zephyrous left the band in 1993. Since 2006, their work has strayed from the traditional black metal style and incorporated more elements of traditional heavy metal, punk, and speed metal, being likened to Motörhead. The band have sought to remain outside the music mainstream.
The band that would become Darkthrone formed in late 1986 in Kolbotn, a small town south of Oslo. They were a death metal band by the name of Black Death whose members were Gylve Nagell, Ivar Enger and Anders Risberget. Their main inspirations were Autopsy, Venom, Hellhammer, Celtic Frost, Slayer and Nocturnus. In late 1987, the band changed their name to Darkthrone and were joined by Dag Nilsen. Ted Skjellum joined 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 Records with 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 on tape until a full album was ready. These tracks were entirely instrumental but they demonstrated the band's gradual shift towards black metal. In 1996, the finished album Goatlord was released, with vocals added by Fenriz.
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, as he didn't want to play black metal, 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. Fenriz is credited with all instrumentation and songwriting, while Nocturno Culto only contributed vocals. The band would remain a duo from this point onwards. Transilvanian Hunger was characterized by a very "raw" or "low fidelity" recording style and monotone riffing with little melody. The album's release caused some controversy: half of its lyrics were written by the 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".
Darkthrone moved to another independent record label, Moonfog Productions, for subsequent releases. The label was run by Satyr of Satyricon.
Their fifth album, Panzerfaust, was released in 1995. Its production is similar to that of Transilvanian Hunger, and Fenriz is similarly credited with all instrumentation and songwriting, while Nocturno Culto only contributed vocals. Lyrics for the track "Quintessence" were written by Varg Vikernes. 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 dark ambient project Neptune Towers, his solo folk black metal project Isengard, 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 Hunger and Panzerfaust had songs written solely by Fenriz, these two albums had songs almost entirely 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 electronic introductions, 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. 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 War compilation 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 Culto completed 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 featured much less significant crust punk traits in exchange for strong speed metal and traditional heavy metal characteristics.
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 rehearsals recorded in 1991 and 1992 for songs which later appeared on A Blaze in the Northern Sky and Under a Funeral Moon.
In June 2018, it was announced that Darkthrone would record a new studio album in October of the same year. Darkthrone announced in March 2019 that they would be releasing their seventeenth studio album, Old Star, which was released on May 31 of the same year. It featured much stronger doom metal characteristics than previous albums, with their Candlemass influences more apparent.
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