Ravishing Grimness

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If Darkthrone's modus operandi has always been one of appreciating the simple things about black metal -- growling voices, big riffs and a perfectly impenetrable logo unless you squint -- there's something to be said about their dedication over the years, which eventually enabled them to aim for a recording quality rather better than on their earliest releases. By the time of Ravishing Grimness, the paper-thin shrieks and feedback of the days of Transilvanian Hunger had long been beefed out some, so hearing the near-lushness (to a degree) of opening track "Lifeless," especially the majestic mid-song break, was more a continuation than a shocking change. Still, the drums are clearly secondary in the mix, but such is life -- and the massive bell sounds on the title track do help make up for it. Brief at just over half-an-hour for six songs, Ravishing Grimness might not rank with the best in the genre -- or even among Darkthrone's own catalog -- but it's a good blast of sound nonetheless. "The Claws of Time" is the standout, its central riffs alternating between pure brawling power on the verses and the kind of sudden stirring uplift via the chorus that is mistakenly thought only to belong to bands that think the Flaming Lips invented all rock & roll. Hearing the almost Motörhead-style raunch of "The Beast" is a touch surprising -- it's not boogie rock per se but it's not all that far removed.

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