Darkthrone – ‘Goatlord’ Re-Issue Review

Peaceville’s re-issues fall largely into two categories. The first is the re-issues that are essential if you don’t already own them (for example the Gehenna and Khold re-issues which are awesome so long as you don’t already have a copy) while the second are the re-issues that are essential even if you have several copies (the recent Candlemass and Darkthrone re-issues) thanks to the startling extras on offer. This, I believe, is my third copy of ‘Goatlord’, my first being a vinyl pressing that I am proud to own and the second being the instrumental version included on ‘the frostland tapes’. What sets this re-issue apart is that, like the other Darkthrone releases, this edition features commentary from the band as well as full lyrics, new band-approved artwork and a bonus track. While the artwork is pretty cool (although in truth I rather liked the more esoteric original) and the bonus track (‘a blaze in the northern sky’) is always worth listening to, the commentary is the thing because once again it’s a chance to hear Fenriz and Nocturno Culto wax lyrical about their work and on this occasion, bearing in mind the fact that this is Darkthrone’s infamous ‘lost album’, the story is more worth hearing than ever.

As an album ‘goatlord’ is actually one of my favourite Darkthrone releases. It’s simply horrible in all the right ways – aggressive, powerful and seemingly recorded on a broken tape-recorder buried in a forest and it feels so utterly raw and abrasive that you can’t help but respond to its visceral style be it with hatred, disgust and bewilderment or love. Famously discarded for ‘a blaze in the northern sky’, ‘goatlord’ was officially supposed to be the band’s second release having been recorded in ‘90/’91 but due to the band’s ever-changing musical endeavours it was shelved until 1994 when the vocals were added to the mix and the album appeared. Once again it is the story of the album that proves fascinating and Fenriz proves to be as engaging, entertaining and informative as ever referencing everything from the tale of the album’s difficult gestation to Family Guy.

Deeply technical despite the appalling sound quality – there are so many great songs on ‘goatlord’ it’s hard to pick a high point. Fenriz himself seems to dismiss the first two tracks as less impressive although that is to overlook the fact that ‘Rex’ is one of the most awesomely unpleasant album openers in history while the multitude of voices (nicely explained in the commentary) that are shot through ‘pure demonic blessing’ rank as some of the band’s most interesting and unusual work. Meanwhile ‘the grimness of which Shepherds mourn’ causes Fenriz to exclaim “we were really on fire here!” in response to the technical drumming and crushing waves of guitar. It’s this sort of enthusiastic response to their own work that makes Darkthrone’s commentaries so compelling and such a pleasure to listen to, as well as all the interesting trivia surrounding the recording process that is inevitably imparted by the same token, and fans of the band will be pleased indeed to be able to tap into such a mine of information about a band who have long been something of an enigma.

Having run out of things to say, Fenriz hands over to Nocturno for ‘in his lovely kingdom’. Nocturno, it has to be said, is somewhat more reticent than his band-mate who positively overflows with trivia, although his taciturn persona possibly suits the image of Darkthrone as unassailable black metal legends more closely than Fenriz’s; although as his commentary progresses a grimly mordent sense of humour appears and he proves to be at least as engaging as his more ebullient comrade. Once again plenty of fascinating insights into the recording process are provided between the discourses on fishing, relief at not being filmed for the commentary (for reasons best heard rather than explained!)  and other random snatches of insanity that pepper the dialogue. It’s fun, interesting and often very funny, all of which makes it a pleasure to sit through even having listened to the first disc from start to finish.

Overall ‘Goatlord’ is an important album in Darkthrone’s recording history and the story of its creation is worth hearing, especially for fans who voraciously hunt down every snippet of material from the band be it magazine interviews or internet pieces. Peaceville have, once again, pulled out all the stops to make sure this special re-issue set is good value for money and for the old-school amongst you there’s also a limited vinyl edition which truly provides the glorious analogue sound that Darkthrone deserve. An excellent re-issue of a blackened jewel of an album.

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