Essential Black Metal Listening: DARKTHRONE Panzerfaust
While Darkthrone might not have been the first black metal band that I ever got into (That honor probably goes to Mayhem) they were always my favorite. The raw diversity emboded by the band has always blown me and countless other fans away, and Panzerfaust has always resonated as perhaps their best record. This album, oft noted for its straight Celtic Frost worship, always captured my imagination far more than its peers. Panzerfaust showed us a Darkthrone with grooves and grit; yes, there were moments of esoteric magic too, but this album more predominantly featured the punch-you-in-the-gut magic of "Triumphant Gleam" rather than the ethereal poetry of "Kathaarian Life Code". Panzerfaust was where we saw that Darkthrone weren't in it for trends but rather for their own distinctive vision.
I think a huge part of the appeal of this album is that despite the fact that Darkthrone definitely do expand their sonic palate with Panzerfaust, so much of it still fits into what defined the initial aesthetic of the genre. The cover art, with its bleak landscapes and funereal moon, only begins to hint at what this album stands for. And while in many ways it reflects the wonderfully monochromatic music found within it also speaks to the power of this band. It was a gem in their crown to prove that they could release something so wonderfully different and still manage to come off as purely Darkthrone. The band was charting new territory on Panzerfaust and it only hinted at what was to come from the Norwegian masters. For now though it remains distinctly fascinating, a tribute to the enduring legacy of a band who are, at this point, living legends.
Of course , part of why I chose to write about this record is because of how polarizing it is. This was the album that saw Darkthrone really pushing the boundaries on what they were for the first time since their infamous switch from death metal to black metal. Looking through reviews and commentary around the internet I find that even now, twenty years on, a lot of people still aren't totally sure what to make of this record. And it's true that this is a seriously weird record… as I type this my roommate, who is most certainly not a metalhead, is tapping along to riffs from "Beholding The Throne Of Might". If a song like that doesn't push the boundaries of what black metal can be, especially in this relatively nascent form, then I don't know what does.
It speaks the triumph of Panzerfaust that twenty years on I'm sitting here discussing the controversy it stirs up. Ten albums later and the band is still fighting on their own terms, putting out music that none of their peers can really compare to, because at the end of the day Darkthrone give the fewest fucks. Darkthrone have always been one of the ballsiest, most insane and fearless bands in the world, and Panzerfaust was an early victory for the band, showing that they didn't need to follow your goddamn rules of black metal. Darkthrone reign eternal, and even now as they ready for a new album, what else can we do but turn back the pages and bend the knee to the face melting power of the original masters?