Darkthrone - Soulside Journey LP (Black vinyl)


The first aspect and most notable difference of this album, is the complexity of the songs in matter of song structures, these are far more intricate than you'll ever find in their entire discography, this means that each song is packed with lots tempo changes and more riffs, this is a huge advantage of Soulside Journey over other death metal albums, you can listen to it 20 times and always find something new. Another thing that also makes this release the main highlight of Darkthrone, is the execution of the instruments, which is more complex as well compared to its successors, but it's not excessive and it's not the main focus of the band here. This also proves Fenriz and Nocturno Culto aren't incompetent musicians as some people may think. Dag Nielsen also has his moments in "Accumulation Of Generalization" and "Iconoclasm Sweeps Over Cappadocia". The mixing delivers as well, it doesn't deprives the album from what it pretends to be, it's not overly clean either, it's just organic.

When required, the drumming isn't fast for the sake of it but to achieve intensity, it's noticeable since the "skank beat" doesn't sound plain, there are some extra cymbals and drum bass rolls in the way. It may seem irrelevant, but a small arrangement like this is really fundamental in this album and it set the contrast between fast-paced, mid-tempo and doom passages. Versatility is one thing to highligh, they don't seem constrained in both technical and creativity-wise. The guitar tone and some riffs sound really menacing from time to time but it can be more doom driven for instance, it's not one-dimensional or derivative. Not sure if they used the HM-2 pedal but what I can assert, is that this was recorded in Sunlight Studios, same place where Entombed recorded the legendary "Left Hand Path", therefore getting a sound that while not being identical to the Swedish death metal scene, is pretty close to it. However the approach is completely different, it's oriented towards the coldness instead of that "buzz saw aggression", you can even tell it by the cover. But the main feature that makes this album, so unique is the keyboard, even though they weren't the first band to do it (Nocturnus introduced it 1 year earlier), it's definitely what adds the dark atmosphere to this album, it's a subtle induction and only has prominence in moderate instances like the mid section of "Neptune Towers" and "Grave With A View". The vocals have a bit of reverb, which also contributes to the grimness of the songs. Even though i emphasized in the coldness and grim aspect present in this record, i don't think this a blackened death metal album, it's more of an extension to what death metal was at the time, since it doesn't share any element strictly from black metal.

To sum it up, this album has everything I want in a death metal album: Technicality without "wankery", lots of riffs and variety that result in repeatability, and tempo changes packed in concise songs. At the same time innovative but forgotten, sadly. Plus the bleak and cold atmosphere, which wasn't very usual in this subgenre (still isn't) and adds its own twist, this album is yet to be reached in perfection or even imitated. These are the reasons why Soulside Journey is a rare gem amongst the best death metal albums of all time.