A Blaze in the Northern Sky Turns Twenty-Five

Darkthrone‘s second album, A Blaze in the Northern Sky, turns twenty-five today. For much of the mid 90s, Darkthrone constantly referred to A Blaze in the Northern Sky as their first album as it was the first commercially released record to adopt the quick and dirty “necro” production style and to have been part of the Norwegian black metal second wave initiated by Mayhem. However most of the individual musical inspirations were audible on their prior Soulside Journey album recorded at Sunlight Studio; the compositions on A Blaze in the Northern Sky were just much more sparse and droning due to different overall compositional goals reflecting the shift from progressive death metal riff mazes to minimalistic Hellhammerism.

The Celtic Frost influences on Soulside Journey are turned up to eleven and interspersed with the three-chord punk that influenced Celtic Frost so greatly. Riffs not rooted in these influences were often dissonant, bizarre but catchy things as if found objects from a more developed, dead civilization repurposed by primitive tribesmen as crude clubs for bludgeoning the brains out of wild animals. Nocturno Culto‘s complete lack of palm muting added emphasis to this. Celtic Frost provide the rhythms for the plodding verse-chorus riff pairs as in heavy metal that replaced the riff jigsaw puzzles. Fenriz‘s percussion was properly a simple alternation of snare and high hat cymbals interspersed with blasting and minimalist but well-used fills and emphasized hits that would be elaborated upon in later Darkthrone releases.

Darkthrone’s primitive compositions lulled listeners into a trance before violent tempo shifts and riff changes joked them back to the carnage of the real, natural world. This pace emphasized the passage of a life punctuated by series of calamitous and fortuitous events without leaving behind the 1980s proto-death/black metal musical context. A Blaze in the Northern Sky ultimately shows the band in a transitional period between the pinnacles of their career but stills provides a memorable, conventionally-constructed bridge into the uncanny creations of Darkthrone.


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24 thoughts on “A Blaze in the Northern Sky Turns Twenty-Five”

  1. wee-nis says:

    “most of the individual musical parts were present on their prior Soulside Journey album recorded at Sunlight Studio”


    1. nigstomper88 says:

      yeah what a weird thing to say. Soulside Journey is like Swedeath-for-dummies. The death metal stuff on A Blaze is all fucked up Autopsy type shit.

      1. and Swedish death metal isn’t? Soulside Journey is way more fucked up and out there than A Blaze in the Northern Sky musically.

        1. Syphilis says:

          I agee, A Blaze… is way too repetetive and drawn out at places. UAFM is way more fleshed out.

        2. wee-nis says:

          Soulside Journey is one of the best. Underrated even by death metal fans. Sad!

  2. Kvädare says:

    I like it more than Transilvanyan Hunger

  3. nigstomper88 says:

    Their best. The sweet spot of black metal, when it was something beyond metal/rocknroll, but not yet “trance music.”

  4. Rainer Weikusat says:

    This is a bit of an odd album as there’s a lot of stuff on it which just sounds like badly recorded death metal. I like the 2nd one (Under A Funeral Moon) much better.

    1. Baaaarp says:

      Under A Funeral Moon sweeps the floor with this vapid first wave worship. This was more of a statement or a call to arms than worthwhile music.

  5. Parasite says:

    A total classic of the genre and a mandatory album for anyone with a metal heart. HAIL.

  6. Claudia Roth says:

    It’s just a dumbed down version of Soulside Journey. I guess they ran out of ideas, so they decided to make everything cheaper on purpose, dope it up with kooky horror movie schlock and claim to have “reinvented themselves” or some typical conman musician bullshit like that. A popular trick in Black Metal.

    1. Slit the throats of the war pigs says:

      goatlord proves they could have kept working in the death style.

    2. In addition, one might add that the Bathory influence became both aesthetic and compositional, with the former being a struggle which then contorted the latter.

    3. Rainer Weikusat says:

      Doesn’t really hold water. Darkthrone, in particular, Nagell/ Fenriz came into closer contact with Asareth/ Euronymous after their first album was released who was an influential “Oslo metal person” at that time who was ‘less than impressed’ with their commercial success. Vikernes recounted that in one of his earlier videos. Fenriz then became a regular presence in Asareth’s shop and the style of the band changed under the influence of the former. Dead’s very graphic suicide presumably also made an impression here and the (as of this time still unreleased) first Burzum album.

      Also, even you being right (“assume hidden ulterior motives” is a pretty hackneyed “reaction to anything strange”) wouldn’t matter. After creation, “work” and “artist” exist independently of each other and what the former will end up meaning to people encountering it doesn’t depend on ‘hidden’ (or any) motivations for its creation. “Artist not being ultimate authority for meaning of work” is not such an original idea.

  7. cornrose says:

    Hahaha that’s dead on. Dumb it down and sell it as though it’s minimalistic brilliance. I can’t help but think Darkthrone had genuine intentions though.

  8. Mythic Imagination says:

    You people have some dumb opinions.

    Soulside Journey dumbed down SweDeath? As far as SweDeath goes its structure is more complex than just about everything outside of At the Gates and Eucharist. The album also had a great Autopsy influence.

    A Blaze… repetitive? Especially considering the albums that would come after? Its basically a riff salad, which is my biggest complaint about it(and some of the stupid random rock riffs) Still a completely worthwhile albums

    Dumbed down? If that’s what you call having different musical aims.

    Transilvanian Hunger of course, remains the pinnacle.

    1. And what about the third album?

      1. Mythic Imagination says:

        A classic of course, an improvement on A Blaze… But TH remains the superior work to my ears, its adherence to one vision, without any need for reversions to 80’s style makes it the victor to me.

  9. Billy Foss says:

    I think Soulside Journey is the only Darkthrone release that I’ve listened to in it’s entirety. All of these Autopsy comparisons make me want to revisit it, and give A Blaze in the Northern Sky a listen.

    1. canadaspaceman says:

      yes, I heard Soulside Journey a bunch of times in my life, and even had the Cd at one point in the late 90’s / early 2000’s, to see if I was missing something when I heard it in the early 90s.

      All Darkthrone albums are decent and played by competent musicians, and nothing sucks, but don’t force yourself to like any of their albums because the funderground says it’s “cool”.
      These maroons also praise shit like Blasphemy and Nuclear Death.

      1. canadaspaceman says:

        Autopsy is good, even their reunion. Maybe not “great” as the first 2 albums, but yeah, check out Autopsy.
        It resulted from one of the splits off early DEATH, and early DEATH rules !

  10. canadaspaceman says:

    I stand by my original opinion when I heard the Soulside Journey tape when released … “this is boring!”

  11. his balls, your chin says:

    All of this, and i mean ALL OF THIS including the article, is just pointless “I like their Nth release better than their Mth release” pissing-into-the-wind waste of air and bits bullsheeet.

    You can all fuck off and die.

  12. GGALLIN1776 says:

    Cromlech makes the hair on my balls stand up (and shout).

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