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NORWAY, Kolbotn

Date Formed 1987

Categories: Black Metal

DARKTHRONE

Current Members

Past Members

Studio Session Members

Biography

Self proclaimed 'True Norwegian Black Metal' band DARKTHRONE have courted a great deal of controversy over a string of brutally stark Death Metal albums. Carving out their own quarter known as "Cold" black metal, to mean the grimmest of the grim, DARKTHRONE proved themselves as capable musicians with their official debut, 'Soulside Journey', yet performed a total U turn artistically, dispensing with all notions of craft, precision and technical dexterity in transporting Black Metal to its rawest, base state. Post millenium, DARKTHRONE had come near full circle, their 80s inspired Crust-Punk putting them into chart territory.

The band, formatively entitled BLACK DEATH, was officially convened in Koboltn, Ski during 1987. BLACK DEATH, established a year earlier, originally involved vocalist / drummer Gylve Nagell and guitar player Anders Risberget. Their first demo attempts came in 1987 with the 'Trash Core' cassette, this hosting diverse tracks such as 'Black Death's Nuke War' and 'Pizzabreath'. 'Trash Core', adorned in artwork executed depicting a wandering troll armed with a rake by Gylve "Death" Nagell was recorded in the attic of Risberget's parents house.

BLACK DEATH put down more tracks that October, dubbed 'Black Is Beautiful', by which time they had been joined by Ivar Enger on bass. Their full Black Metal majesty was still to be realised at this juncture, the band's repertoire now featuring songs such as 'Pizza Monsters' and 'Nasty Sausage'.

Resolving to take a more serious approach to their art, the new title of DARKTHRONE was summoned up, according to legend being inspired by a lyric in CELTIC FROST's song 'Jewel Throne'. With the revised brand came suitable pseudonyms to bolster the darkness now enveloping the enterprise, Nagell become 'Fenriz', after the Nordic wolf god, and Enger, switching roles to take command of guitar duties, adopting 'Zephyrous'. The new unit scored out new tracks to comprise the five track 'Land Of Frost' demo in March 1988. Anders Risberget was still a contributor whilst Dag Nilsen contributed bass.

The single track July 1988 tape 'A New Dimension' included the intro 'Twilight Dimension' leading into Snowfall'. Darkthrone had morphed further by this stage, having introduced guitarist Ted Skjellum ('Nocturno Culto'). March 1989's 'Thulcandra' followed then 'Cromlech' that same December, the latter being recorded live. Meantime, the Fenriz side project ISENGARD issued its debut demo 'Spectres Over Gorgoroth'. The 'Cromlech' session, the first product to bear the now notorious familiar logo, was reissued the following year packaged with the 'Thulcandra' sessions.

A copy of 'Cromlech' made its way to the fledgling Peaceville Records label in Yorkshire, England. Label boss Hammy was swiftly building a roster incorporating some of the most influential metal acts of the next decade, such as MY DYING BRIDE, ANATHEMA, PARADISE LOST and AT THE GATES. The extreme nature of 'Cromlech' positioned the band into this elite pack of proto-pioneers.

DARKTHRONE travelled to Sweden to record the Tomas Skogsberg produced 'Soulside Journey' album in 1990. For this outing Nagell took on the new alter ego of 'Hank Amarillo'. Wrapped in a Sci-Fi flavoured piece of artwork, 'Soulside Journey' saw the band delivering an evocative slice of thundering Death Metal bordering on the fabled Gothenburg sound. Replete with unorthodox riffing, an adrenalin pumping Bpm count on cuts such as the thrash whirlwind of 'Sempiternal Sepulchrality', a brace of technical instrumentals, 'Accumulation Of Generalization' and 'Eon', and keyboard detail, 'Soulside Journey' held no Black Metal persuasions whatsoever.

In May 1991 a short burst of Finnish shows was conducted with Speed Metal act PRESTIGE. As it transpired, this would be the last time the band appeared onstage for over a decade. Instead, the group undertook a profound conversion shortly afterward, foregoing their earlier influences and plunging headlong into the rawest most basic Black Metal. The band actually recorded an album's worth of material, but scrapped these tracks as redundant.

The trio's transformation, now known as Fenriz, Zephyrous and Nocturno Culto with Dag Nilsen only utilised in a session role, was completed by corpse paint and a deliberately primitive regression across all areas of operation, stripping their music down to the bone and reducing visuals to roughly assembled monochrome photocopies set to maximum contrast so as to annihilate all detail. This was the new anti-aesthetic DARKTHRONE that constructed 'A Blaze In The Northern Sky'.

Despite lining up a British tour in 1992, DARKTHRONE manipulated a canny piece of anti-publicity and cancelled all dates, apparently wishing to disassociate themselves from the Death Metal boom and subsequently closed ranks, insisting on no press interviews and vowing never to play live again.

'Under A Funeral Moon' arrived in early 1993, a record that appeared just prior to the spate of Satanic church burnings in Norway. Those who had believed DARKTHRONE had fully explored the concept of minimalism on 'A Blaze In The Northern Sky' were to be shocked by the band's harsh lessons. In taking black metal to the absolute limit, DARKTHRONE delivered an album of horrific sonic value, gloriously grim and brazenly nihilistic with the thinnest of productions exposing a bleached, skeletal sound structure. Refusing to commit themselves to any interviews DARKTHRONE remained resolutely silent on the whole affair.

Despite the arrival of a 1994 solo album from Fenriz under the ISENGARD handle, entitled 'Vinterskugge', a collection of archive demos, DARKTHRONE remained industrious and a fourth album emerged entitled 'Transilvanian Hunger' in February. This record propagated a clutch of mysteries, from the quite hideous non-production, the deliberate mis-spelling of the album title, the sudden, unexplained departure of Enger, the inclusion of one of music's most controversial figures and one of the very worst attempts at promotion by means of exploiting an untouchable taboo.

Unfortunately this offering, bearing the legend "Norsk Arisk Black Metal" (Norwegian Aryan Black Metal), was preceded by a notorious and allegedly "fascist" press release, which resulted in many distributors refusing to handle the record. The band demanded Peaceville include an inflammatory text, "We would like to state that 'Transilvanian Hunger' stands beyond any criticism. If any man should attempt to criticize this LP, he should be thoroughly patronized for his obvious Jewish behaviour." Peaceville issued both this statement and their own response, acknowledging that they could not censor their artists but also taking the opportunity to damn the sentiment.

An embarrassing fudge then ensued, Fenriz claiming that the word "Jewish" was often used in Norway as a substitute for "stupid" and, in spite of already printed racist convictions already in circulation, denying any such assertion, claiming the whole debacle was a "cultural misunderstanding".

Further awkward focus would be placed on the contribution of convicted murderer Varg Vikernes, the BURZUM leader supplying lyrics to 'Graven Takeheimens Saler', 'I En Hall Med Flesk Og Mjød', 'As Flittermice As Satans Spys' and 'En As I Dype Skogen' from his prison cell. Importantly, and often overlooked in historical context, 'Transilvanian Hunger' was almost totally sung in Norwegian, almost unprecedented in that age.

With international media having woken up to the Norwegian Black Metal scene due to the rash of church burnings and the deeds of Vikernes, 'Transilvanian Hunger's title itself was put under sharp scrutiny. Conjecture, never denied by the band, indicated that the spelling error was intentional in order to mirror the "I love Transilvania" motif on the T-shirt of the deceased MAYHEM leader 'Dead' (Pelle Ingve Ohlin) who had committed suicide in extremely suspicious circumstances. Upon finding the body, MAYHEM's Euronymous, according to band drummer Hellhammer, collected up some of his unfortunate comrade's brain tissue and partook of some cannibal feasting by way of a unique stew recipe - hence 'Transilvanian Hunger'.

In a quite productive year for Fenriz, a further ISENGARD project album, 'Caravans To Empire Algol', was released in late 1994 under the guise of NUCLEAR TEMPLE. The same year the industrious Fenriz involved himself as session bass player for DØDHEIMSGARD. Although he left this project following the debut album. In early 1995 Fenriz sessioned for VED BUENS ENDE ('AT THE END OF THE BOW') together with ULVER and ARCTURUS bassist Skoll, drummers Vicotnik of DØDHEIMSGARD and Carl-Michael ex-SATYRICON and ULVER. Fenriz also issued further ISENGARD product, in the form of the 'Høstmørke' album.

The next installment of the DARKTHRONE pantheon, 'Panzerfaust', arrived in March 1995 through Moonfog Productions, the imprint owned by Satyr Wongraven of SATYRICON. Named after a German shoulder held disposable tank destroyer, the album, like its namesake was characteristically cheap and capable of great damage or as Fenriz himself put it "the fist in the face of God". Varg Vikernes carried over his presence once again, providing the prose for 'The Hordes Of Nebulah'. However, DARKTHRONE did include some prominent sleeve notes, stating "Darkthrone is certainly not a Nazi band nor a political band, those of you who still might think so, you can lick Mother Mary's asshole in eternity". Stylistically 'Panzerfaust' harked back towards the surviving duo's appreciation of CELTIC FROST, this hero worship being both obvious and unashamed.

A new album effort, 'Total Death', rose up in 1996. This record was marked by the complete absence of lyrical input from Fenriz. Instead, a clutch of renowned and respected figures gave of their wordsmithery. ULVER's Garm penned 'Earth's Last Picture', Ihsahn of EMPEROR delivered 'Black Victory Of Death', Satyr contributed to 'The Serpents Harvest', Carl-Michael Eide offered 'Blasphemer' whilst Nocturno Culto handled the remainder.

Another DARKTHRONE opus was released in 1996, 'Goatlord' being in fact a CD pressing of demos originally intended as a successor to 'Soulside Journey' prior to the switch from death metal to black metal. These tracks had been festering in the vaults for some time, Fenriz finally adding vocals in 1994. More a chronological curiosity than a bona fide album, 'Goatlord' gave hardened fans an insight into discarded experimentation, particular in regard to chanted female vocals, and gave a root source for many lyrics that would be transposed across the catalogue.

Fenriz also turned up on VALHALLA's 1997 second album, 'Heading for Mars', performing drum duties. DARKTHRONE was honoured by such contemporaries as IMMORTAL, SATYRICON and even EMPEROR on the Moonfog tribute album 'Darkthrone Holy Darkthrone'. Another homage to DARKTHRONE's influence would see acts such as RAMPAGE, LYCANTHROPY, MEGIDDO, THOR, THE SYRE and IBEX THRONE contributing to the Destroy Records collection 'The Next 1000 Years Are Ours'.

DARKTHRONE put out 'Ravishing Grimness' in 1999, servicing longstanding fans with another dose of stereotypical fodder. During 1999 Fenris featured as guest vocalist on ULVER's landmark conceptual piece 'Themes From William Blake's The Marriage Of Heaven And Hell'. 2000 also found Fenriz involved in all star project act EIBON. Issuing one track on the 'Moonfog 2000' compilation album EIBON consisted of Fenriz, PANTERA frontman Phil Anselmo, SATYRICON's Satyr Wongraven, NECROPHAGIA's Killjoy and MAYHEM's Maniac. A full album was announced but never transpired. DARKTHRONE product in 2000 arrived in October, former label Peaceville compiling a set of the group's best known songs alongside demo cuts billed 'Preparing For War'.

The band returned in September 2001 with a six track album 'Plaguewielder' but, like its immediate predecessor, suffered sorely from a dearth of creativity. Much of 2002 would be taken up in preparation for a new studio album. At first provisionally billed as 'Leper Unction' this proposed title seemed to have been dropped by September. The actual album itself, newly titled 'Hate Them', was reportedly recorded and mixed in a mere 26 hours.

May of 2003 would see 'Sardonic Wrath' emerge as a working title for a new studio album. In early 2004 it would be learned that all future DARKTHRONE product was to be serviced by Tyrant Syndicate Records, a new label started by Nocturno Culto. This imprint's debut release would be the AURA NOIR 'Mystical' outing, seeing Fenriz as guest sessioneer. Fenriz would also lend his name to a compilation through Peaceville Records entitled 'Fenriz Presents The Best Of Old School Black Metal'. Amongst the acts chosen as pioneers in their field the drummer chose a diverse range taking in BURZUM, MAYHEM, AURA NOIR, TORMENTOR, SAMAEL, DESTRUCTION, BLASPHEMY, SARCOFAGO, CELTIC FROST, NATTEFROST, MERCYFUL FATE, SODOM, BATHORY, BULLDOZER, VENOM and HELLHAMMER. That same year Nocturno Culto sessioned on the demo 'On Frostbitten Path Beneath' by VIDSYN.

A long overdue live performance of sorts would be announced for the August 'Wacken Open Air' festival as SATYRICON revealed that for the last half hour of their headlining set they would act as backing musicians for DARKTHRONE. This one off union duly delivered 'Kaatharian Life Code', 'The Hordes Of Nebulah', 'Transilvanian Hunger' and 'Under A Funeral Moon'.

In September Nocturno Culto was revealed to be fronting HELVETE, a Black Metal "Supergroup" allied with DISIPLIN guitarist General K, bassist Hellcommander Nattefrost from CARPATHIAN FOREST and drummer Faust, ex-EMPEROR and DISSECTION. Also on the horizon would be limited edition, vinyl picture disc re-releases of both 'Soulside Journey' and 'A Blaze In The Northern Sky' through the Back On Black label. Meantime, DARKTHRONE's 'Sardonic Wrath' album made headlines in December when it was nominated in the metal category for a coveted 'Alarm' award. The group demanded their name being withdrawn, with Fenriz commenting ""We play real and honest Black Metal and we have no interest in being part of the glitter and showbiz side of the music industry."

Nocturno Culto guested as backing vocalist on the high profile SCUM collaboration album 'Gospels For The Sick' in early 2005. Japanese DARKTHRONE fans came in for a lavish treat in August when an EP 'Under Beskyt'telse Av Morke' saw limited release. Directly opposed to the DARKTHRONE ethic of least is best, this box set incorporated three previously unreleased recordings from the 'Under A Funeral Moon' sessions packaged with a sticker, a T-shirt, two postcards, a button badge and even a toy. CD and vinyl versions, the latter pressed in clear marble, were restricted to 666 hand numbered copies.

DARKTHRONE returned with a new album, 'The Cult Is Alive', through Peaceville Records in February 2006. A preceding EP, entitled 'Too Old, Too Cold', including a cover version of SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES 'Love In A Void' and the original 'High On Cold War' featuring Grutle Kjellson from ENSLAVED on guest vocals. 'Too Old, Too Cold' entered the Norwegian national singles charts at number 11.

April brought news that Nocturno Culto had participated in SECHT, a Black Metal collective boasting an impressive cast involving CARPATHIAN FOREST personnel Vrangsinn, Nattefrost and Nordavind, drummer Dirge Rep of GORGOROTH and NEETZACH, Nag of TSJUDER, Gaahl from GORGOROTH and TRELLDOM, Apollyon of AURA NOIR plus Høst from RAGNAROK and TAAKE amongst others.

The 'Forebyggende Krig' 7" vinyl single, released on November 23rd only through online ordering, was restricted to 2000 numbered copies. The B side comprised a cover version of THE TESTORS 'Bad Attitude'. In October Nocturno Culto guested on SVARTAHRID's album 'Sadness And Wrath', featuring on the track 'Intensjon: Krig!'.

Nocturno Culto issued his film documentary 'The Misanthrope' in 2007. This movie, which included previously unseen live footage of DARKTHRONE, featured original score composed and recorded by Nocturno. An advance screening was held held at the Frogner Kino Theatre in Oslo on Friday, April 6th.

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