Darkthrone – ‘Under A Funeral Moon’ 2 Disc Reissue Review

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As we move into the months of wintery darkness, Peaceville are out to intensify the cold with a brace of re-issues, the first of which is Darkthrone’s unassailable classic ‘under a funeral moon’. Following on from the other Darkthrone re-issues that Peaceville have unleashed, this deluxe, 2 disc set benefits from expanded artwork (courtesy of the wonderful Matthew Vickerstaff), liner notes from both Fenriz and Nocturno Culto and a commentary from the endlessly ebullient Fenriz placed on a second disc. Handsomely bound in digi-book format this is yet another example of Peaceville creating a re-issue that offers genuine interest and value for money for fans.

Following the band’s first excursions into black metal on their second release, ‘a blaze in the northern sky’, it would be a year before the trio (the band, at this point in time, still featured lead guitarist Ivar Enger A.K.A Zephyrous) bought out the perma-frost laden blast of icy metal that is ‘under a funeral moon’. Everything about this release emphasised the Darkthrone manifesto at that time – keep it simple, keep it raw, keep it passionate. The production, as even the fondly written liner notes acknowledge, was (and remains) “glorious in its ghastliness” with the band steadfastly only tracking one guitar and then juxtaposing its weakness against a drum sound that seems to come up from the very centre of the earth. It’s a record of extremes in every sense and even now, some twenty years on, it sounds quite unlike anything that came before or since and it’s no surprise that there are those who hail it as the finest of Darkthrone’s many and varied releases.

A review of the album seems redundant, so utterly entrenched in metal lore are Darkthrone’s classic albums, suffice it to say that ‘Under a funeral moon’ is a towering masterpiece of the genre, clothed in an atmosphere so frozen and unhinged that few bands have managed to subsequently match its ambience of chilly hell. Harking back to the early works of Mayhem and Celtic Frost the album takes the key elements of those bands and shapes them into something pure intent and devastating in execution. If you consider yourself a fan of black metal, then ‘under a funeral moon’ simply has to be in your collection.

As with the other Darkthrone re-issues issued by Peaceville over the last few years ‘Under a funeral moon’ benefits from Fenriz’s effortless commentary. Unlike some musicians who might balk at a request to speak about one of their albums, Fenriz peppers the disc with a host of facts that will undoubetly delight long-standing fans. Technical details about the recording, historical details about the band and occasional excursions into Fenriz’s boundless love of metal are all present and correct and by the end you’ll really feel that you have gotten to know Fenriz and Darkthrone much better. Interesting facts that appear include the revelation that the lengthy gap between songs was a deliberate attempt to keep the listener’s attention, Fenriz’s assertion that ‘under a funeral moon’ was Darkthrone’s only pure black metal album and even the surprising revelation that Fenriz despises Sally Fields! Fenriz proves to be, as ever, the perfect host and it’s a pleasure to listen to him talk you through the album, placing it in its historical context and even singing along from time to time as he gets caught up in the music the band made all those years ago.

As we’ve stated before it is hard to imagine a commentary disc working for many bands, but with Fenriz, by the time you’ve reached the end of the disc, it’s like you’ve sat down and shared a beer and a discussion with a close friend rather than listene to a complete stranger telling you about an album recorded some 22 years ago. Fenriz’s gift is his boundless enthusiasm for both his music and, perhaps more importantly, for metal as a whole. The commentary is never self-serving or arrogant, and the information he pours forth is effortlessly fascinating. As with the other re-issues, the key here is in the detail. From the liner notes to the enhanced video interview the package could not be more complete, and it is easy to imagine the release offering plenty for fans even if they have owned the album for years. Few bands are as influential on an entire genre as Darkthrone, and the opportunity to hear the band tell the story in their own words is something that should not be missed. Another brilliant reissue from Peaceville, if you don’t already own ‘under a funeral moon’ (and why not) then you have to track a copy of this excellent two disc set down.

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