Darkthrone - A Blaze in the Northern Sky (1992)Release ID: 451

Darkthrone - A Blaze in the Northern Sky (1992) Cover
Ben Ben / March 26, 2019 / Comments 0 / 1

What an incredible release this was back in 1992. After releasing a straight-forward but enjoyable Scandinavian death metal album as their debut, Darkthrone surprised everyone by unleashing the coldest, most evil sounding black metal the world had ever heard. All the ingredients were there right from the start. A fantastically mysterious and wicked looking album cover in the now standard black and white, with corpse paint included. The rawest of productions that remarkably still managed to be completely listenable and added to the atmosphere and depth tenfold. Blasphemous lyrics spat out in the most venomous and demonic of styles. Freezing cold riffs that somehow sounded epic and majestic while attempting to rip your face off. This is true black metal and Darkthrone nailed it on their first attempt!

While I find the bands recent, more punk and rock n roll influenced albums to be downright atrocious, you can hear that aspect of the band within A Blaze in the Northern Sky. There is a certain punkish element to the band when they hit top speed and In the Shadows of the Horns has a rather rocking feel to certain sections. The difference is that these Norwegian legends played this album with complete conviction, while their new stuff is simply a parody and a piss-take, and an offense to their former fans. It's a sign of just how good and important this album was that it still stands up proudly today, over 15 years later. Literally hundreds of albums have tried to replicate it and very few have managed to get close.

All six tracks are pure black metal gold, but my favourites would be Kathaarian Life Code, In the Shadow of the Horns, Where Cold Wind Blows and The Pagan Winter. A Blaze in the Northern Sky is not only an immensely important album in terms of the evolution of black metal. It is simply a grand example of the genre done right. It’s a shame the band decided to become a joke, and not a very funny one at that!

ZeroSymbolic7188 ZeroSymbolic7188 / June 05, 2024 / Comments 2 / 0

Another album where the challenge is to say something fresh. I am not sure if fresh words will come but "lets find out". First and foremost this is a mandatory black metal album. The only reason I do not rate it higher is because Transylvanian Hunger exists and I like that album even more-it's flawless. What makes this so special you might ask? Well, countless bands in this genre try to create a frozen isolated atmosphere, but their feeble attempts just fall empty. This is how you do that kind of atmosphere the right way; this is every bit as cold and dissonant as anything else black metal has to offer, but it's also... fun and enjoyable to listen to. WHAT A CONCEPT! I think the difference here is that Darkthrone didn't set out with a formula to create that atmosphere, it was organic and just simply what came out of these musicians in 1992. The other ace up their sleeve is that they didn't throw away their punk rock energy. It's easy to forget that Black Metal has a lot of roots in aggressive punk-rock, but not on this album-it's the underpinning of all that chilly atmosphere. It is what is missing with a lot of the "atmospheric" black metal albums, and it is probably why so much of that stuff just sounds hollow to me. 

If all that isn't enough go listen to "In the Shadow of the Horns" right now. It kicks all kinds of ass. 

Also Fenriz is a fantastic human being in all of the ways that Varge sucks. It is a same that latter is more well known than the former. 

SilentScream213 SilentScream213 / October 01, 2021 / Comments 0 / 0

Though a legendary album now, Darkthrone’s A Blaze in the Northern Sky would have been a total shock to anyone previously following the band. Their debut was straight Death Metal, and though it did have a focus on melodies and cold atmospheres, other than that it had very little in common with this creature. I can only guess they started listening to Bathory and decided to go that route, cause I hear Bathory influence all over this. The biggest difference is instead of epic Vikings, the theme is Pagan winters.

A Blaze in the Northern Sky is just 6 long tracks filled with very competent Black Metal, consistent in quality from start to finish, and without many surprises. This is probably considered a landmark release in 2nd wave Black Metal due to its melodic tendencies and lyrical themes that steer away from Satanism. Interestingly, the production sounds a bit worse than their first album, maybe done intentionally to capture that authentic Black Metal sound. My favorite aspect here is the drumming, which is incredibly varied and has much more precision than most Black Metal at the time. The drummer knows when to drop into Doom territory and when to go all out, and does it all very well.

For me, I’ll say that while it is a great album, it didn’t live up to its hype. There’s nothing incredibly unique about it, and to me it’s just a Black Metal version of their debut – strong and competently played, but ultimately unmemorable. Definitely a great listen for that nocturnal winter feel though.

Saxy S Saxy S / May 13, 2020 / Comments 0 / 0

I think that it often gets overlooked that Black Metal was once an elaboration of the original hardcore punk scene from the 1980s. And this genre's earliest trend-setters were bands such as Venom, Hellhammer and Bathory, and each can be easily debated whether or not they were a punk/thrash metal band, or the originators of the black metal sound.

It wasn't until 1992 that Darkthrone would release A Blaze in the Northern Sky and would change the black metal sound forever. They did it by incorporating more trends that were popular in the death metal scene, which was also in its early stages around this time.

And I do respect A Blaze in the Northern Sky for what it represented for the genre at this time and pushing it to where t is today, but looking back on this album years later, I'm not its biggest fan.

But let's talk about what it does. I already mentioned the death metal tendencies, making it heavier than early black metal. Song lengths are elongated, the harsh vocals have picked up the screeching timbre as opposed to screams. The album is dark and dissonant and noisy. And while I do respect that as a black metal trend, it isn't one that I particularly like.

I enjoy a good dissonant song/album, as long as the dissonance is used properly. Such as to highlight a moment of anger, anxiety or fury. With A Blaze in the Northern Sky, dissonance is used almost regularly, while the albums more melodic moments ("In the Shadow of the Horns", "Where Cold Winds Blow", etc.) are reduced and kept towards the end of each track.

Now this is where I might hope that the production could help save the less than ideal songwriting, but it's all so muddy and compressed. Yes, there is plenty of bass, a trend that I wish more black metal bands from the second wave would have used. But the guitars sound so cheap fuzzy. I thought this album was supposed to be pummeling and raw. These guitars don't deliver the punch that others in the genre would provide.

It also doesn't help that the percussion is also mixed pretty poorly as well. The drums are constantly fading in and out of time, and this becomes most apparent when Fenriz is playing blast beats. I understand that the band is trying for a D.I.Y. setup and having it sound rough is par for the course in early hardcore punk. But this is 1992. We were getting much better mixed extreme metal albums from Death and Atheist just one year before.

I feel awkward reviewing an album like this. I see its appeal among the heavy metal community as one of the genre's most influential pieces of work, and how its presence paved the way for all of the different branches and forms that black metal would take over the coming years. But I still don't see it as a great album. The bad production and the poor song structure leave this as just mediocre for me.

Xephyr Xephyr / December 31, 2019 / Comments 0 / 0

The Classic Kind Of Evil

A Blaze in the Northern Sky sits atop the demonic but frozen throne along with Bathory's Under the Sign of the Black Mark and the later released De mysteriis dom Sathanas for being one of the truest to form traditional Black Metal albums released. While Under the Sign of the Black Mark is the most dirty and raw, and De mysteriis dom Sathanas from Mayhem has the more crushing but polished atmosphere, A Blaze in the Northern Sky creates the most evil sounding middle ground for classic Black Metal. Resting right on the edge of being too theatrical and silly, Darkthrone walk the tightrope of having chaotic but weighty riffs with vampire-like vocals that somehow never falters into the realms of pretentiousness or absurdity. 

Each riff has that signature classic Black Metal lo-fi grind to it, but it's much more clear and manageable than something like early Burzum or Bathory. Whether Darkthrone is playing fast and furious tremolo sections or slower, crunchier chug riffs, everything is discernible while still having that chaotic Black Metal atmosphere that is so important on these early releases. The extended song structure is also a plus for me, as I tend to like my Black Metal tracks on the longer side, so having the 10-minute "Kathaarian Life Code" followed by a slew of 5+ minute songs is something that I'm a big fan of. It gives each riff more time to settle in and opportunities for the songs to properly build and fully flesh out their ideas rather than something like Bathory's old Thrash-like approach. 

To me, A Blaze in the Northern Sky is a true classic of old school Black Metal that incorporates all of the aspects that fans love about the genre into one 6-track package. It has the chaos, it has the chug, it has the aggressive and grating vocals, it has the complex and extended song structure, and most importantly it sounds evil as hell. Many Black Metal bands at the time walked around stage in corpse paint and came knocking on venue doors preaching the sometimes questionable words of the Devil, but I find that very few bands really mirror this in the music they create. Darkthrone, on the other hand, sound like they are crawling out of a misty graveyard on a stormy night ready to prey on unknowing victims. It takes a certain amount of skill to sound this evil, and Darkthrone definitely have a knack for it. 

Sonny Sonny / May 27, 2019 / Comments 0 / 0

In a way, from this album to Panzerfaust, Darkthrone are kind of beyond criticism. First off, do Fenris and Ted strike anybody as the kind of guys who could give a shit what I or anyone else think of either them or their music? These two guys have only ever produced the records they want to make, no matter how that's been received. Secondly, if you dislike black metal, then you will almost certainly hate A Blaze... despite what anyone else says. Thirdly, these guys, along with no more than a handful of others, defined black metal in the early nineties, so if you claim to be a fan of BM, but hate this, then sorry, I really don't get where you're coming from.
This album is genuinely THE shit and one of the defining albums in the history of Black Metal. If you don't own it already, then stop what you're doing and get it... NOW!