Darkthrone – F.O.A.D.
Given the critical drubbing F.O.A.D. (Peaceville, 2007) got, I expected the worst from it. I was surprised to find it not only bearable, but also quite likable. It’s not a great album – the last half is basically mailed in – but it’s memorable. The songs are head-smackingly simple, and, more importantly, funny as hell.
That’s probably the problem people have with Darkthrone now. They’re no longer black metal, but blackened crust punk. And they’re obviously taking the piss. Sure, Darkthrone have some classic records, but they were followers, not leaders. They jumped on the death metal bandwagon, making a fine Swedish death metal record in Soulside Journey (at that point, Fenriz was actually a formidable drummer). Then they switched to black metal and made some beautifully shitty-sounding and horribly inconsistent records. If any band ever needed a “best of” compilation, it’s Darkthrone.
Now, freed of corpsepaint and mystique, Darkthrone have more of an identity than ever. I actually remember most of the songs on F.O.A.D., even if half of them are pretty bad; I couldn’t say that for Transilvanian Hunger. And Fenriz is hands down the funniest man in metal. An entire song devoted to Canadian metal? Awesome. When he and Nocturno Culto put their minds to it, they can still crank out great riffs – the little octave drop in “The Church of Real Metal” (see, e.g., 0:57) always gets me. Sometimes I wish the production gave a damn – but if it did, it wouldn’t be Darkthrone.
What fills me with childish glee about F.O.A.D. is its liner notes. These are some of the best album liner notes I’ve ever seen. Each song comes with a paragraph describing the influences and story behind it. The songs themselves are about metal (“I’ve made my own code / Sold my soul to Manilla Road / Modern metal I don’t give a fuck / UH! I was raised on rock”). Darkthrone are a meta-metal band now; they even cite themselves as an influence here. The liner notes are filled with pictures of Fenriz’ infamous camping trips. His thank-you list even includes his “dearly beloved one-man tent.”
To top it all off, Fenriz adds a list of twenty metal records he thinks you should buy, along with one-line descriptions of each (Agent Steel, Skeptics Apocalypse: “If you don’t like this, you can just give up being metal.”) This record is one big love letter to metal. Even if sometimes it seems like Wesley Willis is writing it, how can that not warm me cockles? Every time I hear F.O.A.D., it puts a big smile on my face. Anyone who frowns on that – well, they can fuck off and die.