Interview: Darkthrone’s Fenriz on ‘The Underground Resistance’
Few bands are as a polarizing as Darkthrone. For some, the two man black metal project abandoned their metal roots after Sardonic Wrath (2004). Other believe Darkthrone’s addition of crust and noise punk, starting with The Cult Is alive (2006), was genius. As record collectors and Black Metal purists wage their constant war of words, Darkthrone members Fenriz and Nocturno Culto continue to release records and do things their way.
This month the band dropped The Underground Resistance, and we figured it would be a good time to talk to the boys. CraveOnline spoke with Fenriz about Darkthrone’s place in the underground resistance, the state of Black Metal, their musicianship and their controversial relationship with Varg Vikernes of the near white-power band Burzum.
The title, The Underground Resistance, what does that mean to you? What is the resistance and how are Darkthrone a part of it?
Always having bass in the bass drums in a world where almost the entire metal scene at some point tried to take the bass outta the bass drums. Releases vinyl all throughout the last 22 years. Always playing that old metal. And last but not least all the work I do for other bands, in the blog (Band of the week), reviewing albums, writing about bands. And I don’t even LIKE to write about music, I just like to spread it. So I’ve done many compilations, podcasts, I DJ and now we have opened a bar downtown Oslo where I am musical dictator. From THE SEEDS to SARCOFAGO is the musical profile
What was it like writing this album? How did it differ from your other records from a songwriting standpoint?
We haven’t written ALBUMS for a long time, we make songs. Then we record them. Since summer 91 we decided to write separately. And after 2005 we met up when we had a song each and recorded. Then repeated that over a year-year and a half till we had enough for an album. Another reason why we might sound fresh and different. I am trying to think of bands that are our peers but it’s impossible. And believe me, I really WANT us to have at least some bands out there to identify with. But it’s a long time since we sounded like that.
Where do you think The Underground Resistance fits into the Darkthrone discography?
Right where it is, a rather natural successor to CIRCLE THE WAGONS. It’s got less punk and more heavy and speed metal, that’s all. Apart from that we just continued where we left off, 2 first songs for the album having been made and recorded even before circle the wagons came out.
Lyrically what is the song “Leave No Cross Unturned” about and how did it grow into the thirteen-minute opus?
It’s about judgment, coincidentally all lyrics are – except Valkyrie. Well, I first had to create the verse and refrain riffs, and repeat them. That was sort of the beginning of the song. And already that was 2.5 minutes. Then came the two mammoth like 85 style Celtic Frost riffs as the middle part, and I had to repeat those, and then even added a heavy metal riff at the end of the second loop of those and then of course I had to have more verse and refrains…and by that time the song was like 9 minutes already, it felt like 6.5 when I made it. So from there on I just made a tiny medley of the middle part riffs and went straight on to the final riff which I had from an old song I scrapped but never forgot that last riff.
But was I satisfied with just using that riff the way it was? No no nononoooo, of course not damnit, so I had to rewrite it in to keys, repeating those, and there was no logical end to it so I had to make another “riff” just to end the song properly. And then it was 14 minutes. I told Ted later that I would like to edit it and fade it at 9 minutes but he asked me to reconsider.
Who designed the artwork? How important is the visual aspect to what you do?
Designed, sounds like we were in contact with an artist and told him what to do. Nononono. After the Dennis Dread art covers, Ted suddenly said he wanted something different for the next cover and since I am not a painter I told what Ted told me to Dylan Hughes and then he found that image, an image of Fitzpatrick had already been used for one of my podcasts for Vice mag, so…it was logical anyway. We instantly knew that that image was right for our music and Ted said he wanted it in brown and then we paid the artist like 1000 dollars to use the image and now it’s linked to Darkthrone forever.
The musical shift from Sardonic Wrath to The Cult Is Alive was major. Looking back, why do you think you took such a different musical path?
We knew we would end up like that once we decided to get our own portable studio. Would and should have been able to do that in 1988 but we had no money or skills back then. Quickly we found freedom and whilst the two previous albums had been freestyling all over the place with doom and death and black and blacknroll and even a crust part on hate them album, it just sort of branched out now. Strangely, the too old too cold track (MADE BY TED) was chosen as our video track and maxi single track, it was punked up but not in a typical Darkthrone way, nor the typical “lost” punk style that I’ve been doing (puke Sweden 85+87, death side japan late 80s, the assassinators), and so everyone thought we had gone punk while we really hadn’t AT ALL. But I decided to do even more Motorhead vibed stuff than before and so on and so on, and then the NWOBHM and speed metal, and still to this day I was the only one in Norway making speed metal. Talk about going against the grain, here!!!