Hard to believe that Circle the Wagons represents the same band that recorded the seminal black metal classics A Blaze in the Northern Sky, Transilvanian Hunger , and Under a Funeral Moon. Truth is though, Norway's legendary Darkthrone have been moving towards this thrashy/punk metal style for quite a few years now, and are quickly leaving their black metal legacy behind with the release of this latest CD on Peaceville. Though there are moments throughout Circle the Wagons where you get a hint of some speedy, tremelo picked guitar riffs that will remind of some of their glorious black metal past, for the most part, this is groove laden, punkified, thrashy death/black 'n' roll that fans are either going to love or hate.
Personally, I'm kind of divided here. I haven't been a fan of this shift to crusty punk infused mayhem from Darkthrone, and Circle The Wagons continues to leave that same taste in my mouth. Sure, there are some nifty, Hellhammer influenced tunes here, such as the raucous opener "Those Treasures Will Never Befall You", the brutally heavy "Stylized Corpse" (nice galloping rhythms and crunchy riffs on that one), and the Motorhead-on-speed of the title track, but despite some entertaining moments, this one is filled with tunes that just don't warrant repeat listens. Worse yet, the vocals are pretty hit and miss, as Fenriz and Nocturno Culto fluctuate between punkish barks, throaty toad bellows, and annoying, almost 'smug' sounding impressions of the Sex Pistols.
All things being said, Circle the Wagons is sure to find plenty of fans out there, especially those into more punk inflected styles. The musicianship is top notch as always, featuring plenty of jagged guitar work and frenzied drumming, however, don't expect anything special from the vocal or lyric department. Black metal fans who haven't kept up with the band in recent years should sample first before they buy.
1. Those Treasures Will Never Befall You 04:21
2. Running for Borders 04:04
3. I Am the Graves of the 80s 03:07
4. Stylized Corpse 07:33
5. Circle the Wagons 02:46
6. Black Mountain Totem 05:36
7. I Am the Working Class 05:08
8. Eyes Burst At Dawn 03:49
9. Bränn Inte Slottet 04:37