Transilvanian Hunger


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Transilvanian Hunger Review

by Eduardo Rivadavia

Norwegian black metal demigods Darkthrone concluded their infamous "unholy trinity" of career-crowning albums with 1994's Transilvanian Hunger -- the first recorded solely by the central duo of vocalist Nocturno Culto and multi-instrumentalist Fenriz (not counting a few lyric-writing contributions from an especially tenebrous third party, to be named later). Transilvanian Hunger is also arguably, marginally, the most accessible of the three for virgin lost souls unfamiliar with Darkthrone, because it combines the slightly meatier (though still shockingly primitive and intentionally so) production of A Blaze in the Northern Sky with the more compelling and concise songwriting of Under a Funeral Moon, but, really, all are absolute classics in their own fashion. Another thing that set Transilvanian Hunger apart from its predecessors was its virtually unrelenting intensity, which was immediately announced by the implacable opening title track's blast-beaten advance and then maintained throughout by punishing yet totally irresistible aural assaults like "Skald Av Satans Sol," "Slottet I Det Fjerne," and "Graven Takeheimens Saler." All of these bear the devil's seal of hoarse screaming and thrumming rhythm guitars coruscated by hypnotically insistent melodic lines possessed of incredible claustrophobic repression (late-album cuts "I En Hall Med Flesk Og Mjød" and "As Flittermice As Satans Spys" are among the few cases where this formula finally does get a little tiresome). As a result of this relentless mindset, the sporadic "black and roll" tendencies that were flirted with on Funeral Moon -- and which would often dominate Darkthrone's future exploits -- were scaled back almost completely on Hunger. But, at the same time, when "En As I Dype Skogen" wound down into vaguely Arabian melodies, or "Over Fjell Og Gjennom Torner" into an echoing, deliberate drum tattoo paying tribute to Slayer's "Raining Blood," one quickly remembered that, of all the early practitioners of "True Norwegian Black Metal," Darkthrone would, over time, reveal themselves to be among the least insular of the bunch. Which brings us to the aforementioned third party conspirator, whose track record placed him at the opposite end of the tolerance spectrum: Burzum's Varg "Count Grishnackh" Vikernes. Although already imprisoned the previous year for murder, arson, etc., it was Vikernes who provided lyrics for Hunger's final four songs, thus casting a pall over Darkthrone's controversial, gratuitous (and soon to be refuted) anti-Semitic shock tactics, which in fact reflected nothing more than Fenriz and Nocturno Culto's immature ignorance at the sheer gravity such remarks have. "Live and learn," as they say, and, luckily for Darkthrone, the unquestionable, warped genius of their musical vision would carry them through even this crisis, permitting Transilvanian Hunger to enjoy its deservedly high cult status despite this stain on its makers' reputations.

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