Interview with Darkthrone multi-instrumentalist Gylve “Fenriz” Nagell | By Miriam Usmani
The Norwegian metal duo, Darkthrone, are set to release their newest album, Arctic Thunder, on Oct. 14 through Peaceville Records. This album marks their first release since 2013. This new heavy metal odyssey awaits fans as members Fenriz and Nocturno Culto once again show their mastery of “the riff,” demonstrating why Darkthrone continue to be one of the most respected and enduring acts in extreme metal.
Arctic Thunder is described by Fenriz as “a serious return to old,” and he states, “What I am writing is the real Darkthrone music, back to the real roots.” He goes on to explain that the album is “more introverted” and is also an attempt to top their previous full-length, 2013’s The Underground Resistance.
The album is also a return to old partially because of the band’s choice to record in their earliest recording studio and practice space, “The Bomb Shelter,” which was used by the band from roughly 1988 through 1990. Fenriz states, “I moved back home here to Kolbotn/Tårnåsen in 2013 or 2014, just 200 meters away from our old rehearsal space. I pulled some strings in the local community and finally had the key to the old Bomb Shelter. It still had the same smell; the only difference is that many other bands rehearse there and the old Chet Atkins Me and My Guitar poster wasn’t there. I went home and found the album cover online and printed it out and put it back up. Now, we were back in business,” he laughs. The duo recorded the drums and guitar simultaneously, with no wall in between, letting the sounds bleed into each other. Then, the tracks were sent to Jack Control at Enormous Door Mastering in Austin, Texas.
When asked about the title, Arctic Thunder, Fenriz explains that, often times, Darkthrone’s album names have been tributes to “the old metal way.” For example, their 1996 release, Total Death, was inspired by the 1985 Kreator song of the same name. Their 2010 album, Sardonic Wrath, is a nod to Danish band DesExult. As for the artwork, he explains, “The photo was taken during one of many camping trips that I’ve had to Spålsberget, Nordmarka. When I came back from that particular trip and went through the photos, I immediately saw that some of the photos of the campfire held the essence of Darkthrone.” The photo has not been edited or altered in any way.
As a band, Darkthrone have come a long way since their first full-length release in 1991, Soulside Journey. Fenriz describes this earlier period as his “peak” as a musician. “When starting to play black metal, we deliberately set all skill aside and played more primitive and from the heart,” he explains. “We still do, very much so. But, beyond that, it is a regression to what Darkthrone could have been in 1988 if we didn’t go technical spaced out death metal later.”
Oftentimes, Darkthrone are described as an “extreme metal band.” Fenriz balks, “The label extreme metal was not a term in the ‘80s; it always felt very alien to me. If it has to do with the vocals being rough, then OK, but even the new Vicious Rumors album, [Concussion Protocol], is faster than our style. We don’t play any faster than The Yardbirds gospel style from mid ‘60s, so I hardly feel we are extreme,” he laughs. “It’s a ‘90s term and, as strange as it sounds, Darkthrone does not belong much in the ‘90s. We were born in very early 1970s, and we got to hear music from the ‘60s and ‘70s early on in our careers, and are seldom inspired by anything after 1989. I agree [with] what [former Entombed drummer] Nicke Andersson said concerning how fast he makes new rock albums: ‘If you use too much time to make a rock album, I think you have seriously overthought the process,’ or something like that. Rip it out!—[That’s an] Ace Frehely reference.”