Crushing the sacred idols – Transylvanian Hunger (1994)

transilvanian hunger

Article by Lance Viggiano, read the more positive DLA review here

1993’s Under a Funeral Moon displays Darkthrone at their peak of creativity with a depth of vision that is initially challenging and abrasive yet contains a high degree of musically which constructs an experience out of relatively simple components and nuance whose reward is inexhaustible. Many place the decline of the band somewhere between 1995’s Panzerfaust and its follow up Total Death; in truth, Darkthrone as a creative force reached its nadir on 1994’s Transilvanian Hunger.

Unlike its predecessor, this record lacks in subtly and nuance. Gone is the inventive call and response of “To Walk the Infernal Fields”. The listener is mistreated by being deprived of the atonal, uncomfortable but highly inventive melody of “Natassja in Eternal Sleep”. Within the first minute, one will have gotten the gist of each track as the songs remain in a static pulse of two or ideas with a third idea serving as a bridge back to the initial thoughts, an interjection or an outro. Any relationship to an underlying narrative is tenuous to the charitable and absent to the honest. This is not a call for novelty in music as over time nothing remains novel; rather, it reveals a lack of dynamic character which offers no reward in a full listening of any track here; especially after the initial novelty fades with repeated listening.

As a piece of minimalism, this record fails abjectly. What is found in the successful minimalism of Eno, Reich – or perhaps Kraftwerk in moments – is the layering of simple ideas composed for multiple instruments in which absolute simplicity is woven together to create evocative if not complex art. Darkthrone instead chose to compose only for the guitar. The bass follows root notes of the guitar in a paltry attempt to give body while the drums meander near ceaselessly on a blastbeat which is only occasionally broken by an uninspired fill or a canned metal pattern. Their inclusion is questionable and unworthy of discussion or serious consideration. Their merit is valuable only to a critic as a display of the artists’ lack of confidence in leaving behind genre tropes to achieve a full realization.

Where the album finds success is by pandering to the overly sentimental via – admittedly – effective melodies and well executed aesthetics. Neither excuse the sheer laziness of construction nor the complete dearth of rhythmic variance and supportive content to fill out the body of the music. Instead what is presented is weightless and immediate music whose significance can only rely on memory of time and place; a sense of nostalgia for the first experience. It is thus difficult to discuss the emotional qualities of this music due to the near loss of artistry on part of its creator(s) which robs the record of any vitality and spirit. The music is heartfelt and bittersweet – with varying degrees of success – but ultimately it exists, at best, as audible candy for the melancholic.

Transilvanian Hunger‘s inability to grow with the listener over time and its misapplication of minimalism, despite containing a strong melodic component, places the record just a slight cut above the bargain bin. 2/10

Tags: , , , , , , ,

46 thoughts on “Crushing the sacred idols – Transylvanian Hunger (1994)”

  1. fenrir says:

    The album works at a meta-level, the riffs are not there to be heard for themselves, they “mean” different things in different places. They work with ordering and number of repetitions, that is how a three-riff song in this album amounts to a great journey. Furthermore, it is the concatenation of all the songs that forms a great work.

    It is understandable that it flies over the heads of most. It requires not only concentration but going beyond the riff, and into the trance, while keeping the riff structure and PULSE in mind.

    This is Mystic expression in black metal at its best.


    1. Juss says:

      That meta-level observation is something I’ve always noted about Transilvanian Hunger. The number of repetitions and the presence or absesce of vocals change the function of each riff and whether it is the focus of your attention or a supporting element. The parallel that immediately springs to mind is Ildjarn’s Norse EP, in which riffs that are present in the first half of a song are drawn out and given a different function in the second half.

      Another key point with Transilvanian Hunger is that it lays to rest the idea that metal should be complex, either on a technical level or a compositional level. The songs are simple, mostly made up as stated above of three riffs: two main riffs that contrast each other and a concluding riff. In contrast to the view expressed above, I find that each concluding riff hits with a tremendous force, which is only made possible by the impetus of the preceding riffs. In isolation each riff is good but, once assembled together as presented here, they are much more powerful. This would not be the case if the composition was haphazard and lacking in greater meaning.

    2. FillMyHole says:

      All art operates on a meta-level and an analysis of art’s objective qualities allows us to determine its efficacy at that level. In fact, this method is an approach that has been used throughout DLA and DMU history towards that end. Nevertheless, I’m pleaded that the albums construction communicates something profound to you.

    3. life sucks says:

      Exactly right. The whining in this review would also discredit most Ildjarn-Nidhogg collaborations.

      1. Roger says:


        Ildjarn is not high art. It’s idiot savant music. Same issue as here: It’s essentially deconstructive punk music that is less sophisticated, structurally, than much pop music.

        1. fenrir says:

          You clearly don’t get Ildjarn.
          It is clearly not “sophisticated”, but it is the kind of art that is “beyond”.
          This is not easily explained. Something similar happens with Transilvanian Hunger.

          It’s in the rhythm and repetition and how the same riff has different effects in different moments.
          Also, With Ildjarn, some rhythmic permutations work in a way the may remind one of
          European early music and its simple melody and harmony.

          1. Roger says:

            Dear Fenrir.

            Maybe I ‘get it’ it just fine. Maybe I think it’s simply maladjusted, idiot savant music. You have given no objective considerations for thinking it is anything but.

            1. Ara says:

              Don’t get upset, that’s his main go-to tactic if you disagree with him. You’ll get used to it eventually.

      2. jinko says:

        ppl always put TH with Ildjarn-Nidhogg but its totally mis-placed, more like VON or celticFrost

        1. jinko says:

          sorry when I said Celtic Frost I meant DEMONCY. It’s the closest thre is to Trancesylvanian Express

          1. jinko says:

            demoncy JOINED IN DARKNESS is basiclay Transylvanian Hunger crossed with Profanatica

  2. vOddy says:

    In the past, I would have agreed with this review.
    When I started listening to black metal (through Darkthrone, it was the first band I tried) I found it too simple, and frankly boring.
    Now I enjoy it.
    I like what it expresses, but I’m not entirely certain of what technical part about it makes it express what it does. I just know that I like the harmonies and tonal steps.
    It’s almost like it should be very boring and uninteresting “on paper”, but for some reason it isn’t.

    I have no nostalgia tied to this music. I started listening to it just a few years ago, and at first I didn’t like it all. Now, I see some qualities of winter night in it. The perspective on the winter night is from a lone individual, who does not fear it, but who finds himself at home in it, even though a mistake could lead to freezing to death.

    1. I think David Rosales nailed it: it’s about rhythm, both the drums and the introduction of leitmotifs, paired with melody to create an ambient sensation. I prefer UAFM myself.

      1. Roger says:

        Darkthrone, at least on this album specifically, create music that is structurally more simple than many pop songs. It’s not ‘phrasal’. It’s not classical music. It’s 3 chord music. One riff for verse, one riff for ‘answer’ and maybe a bridge riff. It might not be as verse-chorus-verse-chorus as pop music, but ‘introduction of leitmotifs, paired with melody’ says nothing to me. Why aren’t pop songs involve the ‘introduction of leitmotifs, paired with melody’??

        1. Phil says:

          I like both good black metal and good pop music. TH is amazing.

          So is this:

          1. :) says:

            No, it isn’t. But you get 2 social points for being “open-minded”. ;)

        2. fenrir says:

          Wrong. TH is NOT pop music. It may be “structurally more simple” in the sense that on the surface it appears to have less distinct “words” or “riffs”. But it is an ambient effort in which the time at which things are played and the presence or absence of vocals in this or that section plays a huge role in how it is felt.

          1. jinko says:

            hell yeah. but seriously DAVID if they dont geti t they don’t get it. [prozags reviews have been up 4 years. link it and do not waste NRG arguing with these pale fucks

      2. FillMyHole says:

        Blaze is my go to for Darkthrone, but if I’m attempting objectivity, UAFM is their greatest artistic statement.

    2. vOddy says:

      After I read that, I imagined some Darkthrone tracks with different rhythms.
      For example, instead of 16th note tremolo picking, I imagined 4th notes or whole notes.
      And instead of blast beats, something less intense.

      It changed a lot. So I can conclude that it the rhythm is as important as the melody, and the combination is what creates the end result.
      However, that is probably true for most music. But most music doesn’t use the kinds of rhythms that Darkthrone does.

      Now, every want to be black metal band uses stuff like 32th note tremolo riffs with 16th note drumming. I think one thing that separates the greats from the mediocres is how these traditional black metal rhythms, and indeed other less used ones, are combined with melodies. Some melodies work better when they consist of whole tones, others of 4th, 8th, 16th, etc, or any combination of the above.

      Although it is still a mystery, I think that I now understand why I like black metal slightly more than I did yesterday. – opening minds and bringing clarity.

      1. jinko says:

        hell yeah, but if you wanna really trip yoself out try putin a couple wickedy whacks in between each verse

        TRANSYLVAAn ickedy wack wack wickedy wickedy: HUNGER, !COLD wicjedy whcick wack wack. loL. of course if ever any1 try that with my orgiginal pressing i fuckin maim their pale ass. though i am into interesting rhymthic stuff

        1. jinko says:

          that reminds me of the time I was playing with our band in Italia, when suddenly broke into this mad ass doo-wop -style improvisation mid way through the set. the fanz didnt like. but can go fuck themselfs for all i care…when I feel the spirit I go with it! scoobedee dee baap ba doo wop, baa woo up (?) Honrnz … \m/

  3. mr thrasher mchungo, lord of the abysmal moshing says:

    holy shit poser, take that back. i bet you listen to deafheaven and shit >:^( ill kick your ass buddy.

    meat me in the pit lol

    1. jinko says:

      any thyme swee thart?

  4. Anndra says:

    ha! nice try. the pulse/rhythm has it though. suppose the op doesn’t like discharge or ildjarn either then.

  5. viranesir says:

    I am glad not everybody who listens to this album needs as much spoon feeding…

  6. alkjsoa says:

    The previous comments are right about TH’s subliminal effect.

    Of course, Burzum did that approach better. And it’s lost a bit of its lustre from imitation. And it doesn’t match UaFM, let alone A Blaze in the Northern Sky–superior albums both in “metal language” (i.e. knowing the value of the riff) and probably at face value too–but TH is still pretty undeniable.

    A lot of the negative re-evaluation* of this album boils down to “Seinfeld is unfunny”–
    Something that hasn’t devalued albums like Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticism or the other two Darkthrone ‘trilogy’ records as much because they just haven’t been imitated as much.

    * it sorta evens out, because the uber-classic status of this album is a bit of a re-evaluation to begin with. There was a time when this was seemingly the only DT album people talked about on the internet.

    1. :) says:

      “Something that hasn’t devalued albums like Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticism or the other two Darkthrone ‘trilogy’ records as much because they just haven’t been imitated as much.”

      Good point. 20 years of semi-competent clones are bound to have an effect on the initial impression of this album, but one should be able to look past it.

    2. jinko says:

      any1 doesnt like ??well fuck off back to your necrophobic CDs

  7. dla is better says:

    Next up, let’s all hear about how Emperor’s debut is better than Burzum. After all, Varg composes in a similar manner as described here (Transilvanian Hunger being “fast Burzum”). Though I’m sure there’s a way to argue that the few synth bits in the metal songs bring it up to that highly coveted Brian Eno elevator muzak quality…

    The old DLA reviews were more considerate toward the aim of the final product. Since there’s nothing going on in metal that’s exciting, there really isn’t any point in caring about what is mentioned outside the archives, which leaves a void to be filled by useless articles on bands that are immediately forgotten (the Revenge ripoff, or was it Revenge?). The complaining about Altars of Madness seen some months ago was just the beginning.

    1. Daniel Maarat says:

      In the Nightside Eclipse is better than Burzum Burzum outside of My Journey to the Stars. Varg’s debut has too many songs that are just undeveloped riffs like the middle of Reign in Blood only more boringer. The riffs are good but the songwriting isn’t the best.

  8. Demonseed says:

    People knit pick the albums too much . Dark Throne’s first 4 or 5 albums are all classics. Just as Marduk’s are . They are superior to other BM bands from that era because they were consistently good and their albums didn’t all sound the same either. When you went to buy a Dark Throne or a Marduk album back then you knew you were going to get something good for sure.

    1. Anthony says:

      Marduk isn’t even remotely comparable to Darkthrone in terms of innovation/influence/intelligence/generally being good music. Opus Nocturne is the best Marduk album, and even that seems like children’s programming compared to even Total Death or Ravishing Grimness. Swedes can’t black metal for shit outside of the Dissection/Dawn/Sacramentum style.

      1. alkjsoa says:

        And, well, Bathory

        That flowery black-melodeath stuff is overrated anyway. It’s all about Bathory…

        1. Daniel Maarat says:

          Necrophobic The Nocturnal Silence, the first Dark Funeral. David Parland did soom good work.

        2. jinko says:

          lol its not black metal then. simple

  9. puny humans says:

    An absolutely essential album and enough has been said about it already. I wonder why the hosts of this website bothered to accept this article?? Pot stirring? Loss of readers?? The development of this site has been an interesting one.

    1. jinko says:

      No. It;s just an interseting insight and good to have alternate pojitn of vjew. always welcome

    2. Juss says:

      I suspect that the intention is to encourage people to defend the album using more in-depth analysis than the usual circle-jerk of vague praise that classics receive on the internet.

  10. Anthony says:

    ITT: People who got into ANUS through retrodeath attempt to carve out a space for themselves by shitting all over good albums.

    1. jinko says:

      we all knew it. but there intitle to ther opinions d im just glad they be honest rather than jerk me off subliminally

  11. jinko says:

    Don’t know if I’m putting this in the right place but if anyone is interested in buying a plectrum signed by Wes Borland please feel free to PM me on the forums. Thanks.

  12. jinko says:

    Hey how cumm the cover didnt go backwards for the rv

  13. Stephane says:

    Go review and I agree with the final note

  14. Michelob mike says:

    ‘pandering to the overly sentimental’ lol. TH is anti-sentimental, like all good metal.

  15. Daniel Melendez says:

    Well, I know the ‘beating your sacred cow’ or ‘destroying your own idols” is a means to an end, but I fail to see the end behind this review.

    Funny enough, I remember back in the day at least ONE review –written by late Bull Metal Montoya, drummer of Colombian bands Masacre/Typhon and the guy who pressed the infamous “Dawn of the Black Hearts” bootlet– actually bashed TH because he considered it to be uninspired, saying that what other people saw as ‘minimalistic’ was actually dull, boring, repetitive and shallow. But, alas! I think it was because he had no love for Varg, his music (especially ‘Hvis Lyset..’ and “Det Som…”) and his contribution to this album.

Comments are closed.

Classic reviews: