Essential Black Metal Listening: DARKTHRONE Transilvanian Hunger
Darkthrone have always been my favorite black metal band and Transilvanian Hunger perhaps my favorite of the classic-era albums. This is a record that came along at a pivotal time in black metal, when the genre was still dominating headlines with horror stories of church burnings and murders. Hell this record stirred the pot with an early edition claiming Darkthrone was "Norwegian Aryan Black Metal" and that "If any man should attempt to criticize this LP, he should be thoroughly patronized for his obviously Jewish behavior." Remember, a recently imprisoned Varg Vikernes wrote some of the lyrics on this album! Doing research for this article I found out that there is vocal backmasking on the classic track "As Flittermice As Satan's Spy's" with the message, "In the name of God, let the churches burn" While all this is going on, this also was the bands first record without founding member Ivar Enger, also known as Zephyrous, and the first the band recorded as a duo, fully embracing their modern configuration. Point being, there's a lot to take in.
This record is also exciting to me because I feel like you hear a definite progression within this album in the Darkthrone chronology. Transilvanian Hunger has always fascinated me because it feels like the transition point between the buzzing triumph of Under A Funeral Moon and some of the weirder records that were to come. Darkthrone wouldn't be able to ape bands like Agent Steel or put out crust punk records if it weren't for this record opening up the sonic pallet of the band. Beyond that, Darkthrone seem to hint at a much darker reality with this album, the pure torment that would so often define the band comes to fruition here and the darkness of Darkthrone seems to take on bold new dimensions. This is also an album where Darkthrone seem to really come to terms with having mid length songs, the slog that is a track like "Kathaarian Life Code" has no place here. All of this goes to show why Transilvanian Hunger is such a beautiful mindfuck.
At the end of the day, Transilvanian Hunger should be a staple in any black metal fans collection. It's a record that understands the fundamental power of the genre and acts as a fitting snapshot of one of the most dangerous and exciting extreme music scenes of the 20th century. There are a lot of demented moments on this record just as there are a lot of really well put together and delicate ones. It's an album that constantly demands the listener to uncover new sides of the genre and which vastly opened up all that could be done with this kind of music. It's a formative influence on a scene that was only just starting to get its bearings and realize that maybe this whole black metal thing could be something. It's blemished by the mistakes of youth, but if they hadn't happened I don't think that Darkthrone would be the band they are today. So join me, go back and dig in, feast on aural desecration of the sort few can truly compare too.