Darkthrone Circle The Wagons

Continuing their shift away from black metal and further down the spiralling hole that is their weird crust/doom/punk infatuation, Norwegian duo Darkthrone become almost laughable on 14th effort Circle The Wagons. An unusual blend of Venom's hold-it-together-with-chewing-gum inabilities on early efforts such as Welcome To Hell, but clearly not as inspiring or creative, the majority of this affair yields more moments of frustration than inspiration. Lead track "Those Treasures Will Never Befall" comes across like some goofy Manowar-meets-Thor bit, which is as off-putting as it is shocking, while "I Am The Graves Of The 80s" almost hits brilliance, but the vocals sound so ridiculous that all hope is lost. Making matters worse is the general sense that Darkthrone have the riffs and concepts to make some brilliant music ("Stylized Corpse" hints at the band's ability, but the mark is still missed) were they to simply do what they know, not ape what they adore. Maybe next time though, because it's too late here. Circle The Wagons feels upsettingly immature, simplistic and unimpressive. While progression and maturity are good, forsaking that which made you is sad. Regressing to a point below that of pre-teen garage bands though? Unforgivable. (Peaceville)