The legendary, longstanding partnership of Norwegian drummer Gylve Fenris “Fenriz” Nagell and vocalist, guitarist, and bassist Ted “Nocturno Culto” Skjellum returns with Darkthrone’s first studio album since 2016’s Arctic Thunder. Released May 31 via Peaceville Records, Old Star’s six new epic tracks take old-school heavy and extreme metal and a hefty dose of doom-laden riffing and channel them through the grime of the underground.

Old Star is a continuation of Arctic Thunder,” Nocturno Culto says. “On that album, my songs were probably the most black-metal-ish kind of songs, like a bit more traditional black metal stuff. So, I wanted to continue with that and then take it even further, which I did on Old Star. I guess Fenriz continued with his heavy stuff. We were very stoked about making Arctic Thunder, so we knew we had to somehow continue in that same vein. So, I think it’s definitely a continuation, even though Old Star is probably a lot slower than Arctic Thunder, but we can’t really control what’s coming out. It’s just there.”

“We live just day by day. We had two recording sessions for Old Star, and that was, like, two weekends, actually,” he continues. “This kind of time pressure is something that we inflict upon ourselves. We really didn’t have to do it so fast, but we like the way we’ve been working now since 2005. We record ourselves. It works out for us. The environment that we recorded Arctic Thunder and Old Star in was this old bomb shelter that we used to rehearse and record some demos in the late ’80s. The acoustics there are horrible, and it’s like going into war when we are in the studio, but we like that kind of war. We always fight the elements.”

The process for creating Old Star was the same one Darkthrone have been using for the last 14 years. “This has been the tradition for the last decade at least,” Nocturno Culto notes. “We make separate songs, and since 2005, we don’t know each other’s songs until we go to the studio and I learn the guitars from Fenriz. So, we just practice, and he, of course, learns my songs because he plays the drums. So, that’s the way it goes. I mean, we trust each other after so many years.”

“Fenriz can say that to me, ‘I wanted to play this riff in a certain way,’ and try to describe it, and I do it—and also, on my songs, I have plans for the drums but not in the very details. This has to be some kind of a living organism that comes to life, basically,” he says. “He’s probably a bit more specific. For my sake, I’m just in the Darkthrone space when I’m making songs. It’s difficult for me, since I’m not some kind of music nerd. I have no idea what I’m doing. It’s not referential to anyone, because the last years, I have been not so much listening to music, but the inspiration comes from everything and nothing. The place where I am at when I’m writing songs is definitely the place I like to be, because this is why we do Darkthrone.”

Ester Segarra

Old Star was recorded at the band’s Necrohell II Studio, with engineering and production duties carried out by Nocturno Culto and complemented by an entirely organic mix courtesy of Sanford Parker at Hypercube, then mastered once more by Jack Control at Enormous Door Audio. “In the ’90s, we did make a couple of albums with the first Necrohell studio, but otherwise, we’ve been to ordinary studios most of the time,” Nocturno Culto says. “Since 2005, we got our own Necrohell II Studio, so we recorded every album in that one. We have been located in two different places since 2005 until the recording of Arctic Thunder; that was a different place, the bomb shelter. We’ve been to a friend of ours who lives far away in the eastern woods. That was an awesome time, because we were in this private house. That was good. It has been a bit more stressful on Arctic Thunder and Old Star, because the environment in the bomb shelter was a bit harsher and the acoustics were kind of wild. We had some trouble along the way, and we had to solve it, because we had a short amount of time.”

As recording engineer and producer, Nocturno Culto wanted to explore a specific sound on this album. “I don’t care about what people are listening to. I couldn’t care less,” he says. “There is something for everyone there. We have a small joke, which is a bit true as well, when we say that we don’t make music that people should necessarily like today, but the point is that you put on Old Star or [2013’s] The Underground Resistancein 15 years, it will still sound equally fresh, and that is because of the sound. I know a lot of bands that have gotten themselves trapped when new technology comes around. They want to be on it, and when the decades go by and they listen to that album, it’s like, ‘Oh, it’s so ’90s.’”

Ester Segarra

“Creating music is very important, but so is our sound,” he adds. “We like to put a lot into the sound, because we want it to be harsh and probably not likable for many people. That’s one of the reasons why we’re not the world’s biggest band, because we could [I] think, of course, but this is how we work. The sound is so important to portray what we want the audience to feel, to have this atmospheric stuff you can listen to and not horrible drum sound and horrible everything. We record in a very old-fashioned way. We also record live, which means that one’s on the guitar and one’s on the drums playing live the entire time without skipping and jumping in and taking things from the beginning again, because it’s a whole stretch to play it live. So, it’s like the base, the frames of the songs are live, and that’s what we like. People listen to them, and they can say, ‘OK, they’re actually playing for us.’ There’s no studio technology, trickeries, or things. We play the whole song.”

Playing music has always been the most important thing for Darkthrone, and Old Star is no exception. “I care just about spreading our music and not our face,” Nocturno Culto admits. “I want people to forget about me and try to listen to Darkthrone. I think that neither Fenriz or myself are on any social media, and I know that’s a big thing for people. I’m not a very social person and more of an introvert. I’m good at being social when I have to be.”

However, this has nothing to do with the band’s decision not to play live shows. “Playing live, for us now, will be a lot of hassle, meetings, the whole machinery going on,” he continues. “It’s two very different things, making an album and standing on the stage, because being on the stage and entertaining people is more like showbusiness. I don’t like showbusiness. I’m not born to do that kind of thing.”

“Darkthrone has been a big part of my life since I was 16 years old, and it’s slowly become some kind of mental lifeline, at least for me and I also think for Fenriz,” Nocturno Culto concludes. “This is the one place that has been steady for 30 years. So, for us, continuing to make music for Darkthrone and sharing it with our fans is the only thing that really matters.”


:: New Noise Magazine Metal Web Editor ::

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