Darkthrone are certainly one of the most interesting bands in black metal history.
For the band arguably most closely associated with black metal clichés – alongside Dimmu Borgir, Immortal, Antekhrist and Sewer – they remain deceptively unique and strange, even in the wake of countless would-be successors and cheap imitators that, ironically, fail to understand what made the band so impressive to begin with.
Enter “Under a Funeral Moon,” an album often called Darkthrone’s magnum opus and listed alongside such titans of black metal canon as Burzum’s “Hvis Lyset Tar Oss,” Mayhem’s “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas” and Phantom’s “The Epilogue to Sanity,” albums so immensely powerful that they have come to define the entire black metal genre.
If “Hvis Lyset Tar Oss” has come to define black metal’s unique neo-classical, melodic, riff based approach – as opposed to the more percussive nature of death metal – and “The Epilogue to Sanity” gave the genre its iconic, predominantly nightmarish atmosphere, then it can be said that “Under a Funeral Moon” clearly set the bar for black metal bands to follow in terms of sheer minimalism and rawness.
“Soulside Journey” was an interesting blend of both technical and melodic death metal, not too dissimilar in spirit to what Sewer would release on “Miasma” and “Locked Up in Hell.” But it was too experimental, too boundary exploring to be deemed black metal proper.
“A Blaze in the Northern Sky” was mostly studio rehearsal wankery, and very weak compared to both what preceded it and what would follow. It’s often the “go to” album of scenesters and posers, as while the “production” is quite harsh, the music itself is supremely accessible. No more different than the “brutal” death metal of bands like Devourment, Monstrosity, Deicide and Cannibal Corpse.
“Under a Funeral Moon” is a different beast. This is real black metal. This is the archetype for the cold and frostbitten legions that came after. Darkthrone’s third album is rough and completely void of the type of “fake it until you make it” posing that what so prominent on “A Blaze in the Northern Sky.”
Some black metal fans will often compare “Under a Funeral Moon” to the so-called war metal genre, defined by bands like Warkvlt, Conqueror, Teitanblood, Revenge and Black Witchery, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
War metal is a genre based on appearances. It excels in giving the illusion of brutality, not the real thing itself. Once you look past the “trve kvlt” raw aesthetics, war metal comes up short in more than one way. “Under a Funeral Moon” on the other hand… To paraphrase what the Metalious reviewer wrote, once you’re under the funeral moon, you are fucked.
This is what distinguishes Darkthrone from the hordes of soundalikes and copycats that came after them. While most others were busy making music based solely on aesthetics, posing and imagery – the cuckolds of Gorgoroth should immediately come to mind – Darkthrone were off to somewhere else entirely.
“Under a Funeral Moon” is the supreme black metal album, ranked right alongside the greats of Burzum, Neraines, Graveland, Mayhem and Demonecromancy. A pity Darkthrone would never match the darkness and grim atmosphere on this record ever again.