DARKTHRONE — A Blaze In The Northern Sky

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DARKTHRONE - A Blaze In The Northern Sky cover
3.88 | 42 ratings | 4 reviews
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Album · 1992

Filed under Black Metal


1. Kathaarian Life Code (10:39)
2. In the Shadow of the Horns (07:01)
3. Paragon Belial (05:24)
4. Where Cold Winds Blow (07:26)
5. A Blaze in the Northern Sky (04:57)
6. The Pagan Winter (06:34)

Total Time 42:03

2003, 2007 and 2014 enhanced CD remasters:

7/CD2. Darkthrone: the Interview - Chapter 2 (Video) (13:50).

2012 2CD - disc 2 - Commentary disc by Fenriz:

1. Kathaarian Life Code (10:39)
2. In the Shadow of the Horns (07:02)
3. Paragon Belial (05:25)
4. Where Cold Winds Blow (07:26)
5. A Blaze in the Northern Sky (04:58)
6. The Pagan Winter (06:35)

Total Time 42:05


- Nocturno Culto / vocals, guitars
- Zephyrous / rhythm guitars
- Fenriz / drums

Guest musician:

- Dag Nilsen / bass

About this release

CD, cassette and 12" 33⅓ RPM vinyl LP released 2nd March 1992 on Peaceville Records (VILE 28).

CD limited to 3000 copies. CD reissued 1994, 22nd January 2001 and 2002. Vinyl reissued 20th May 2002, 7th December 2009, 2010 and 2012.

Cassette released 1992 on Metal Mind Productions (MASS 0007).

12" 33⅓ RPM vinyl LP released 1992 in Brazil on Mushroom Records (MUSH-002).

Cassette released 1992 on Valentine Sound Productions (NE 087).

Cassette released 1996 on Hammer Müzik (HMR063).

CD released 2003 on Black Metal Attack Records (BMA007).

Enhanced CD remaster released 23rd June 2003 on Peaceville Records (CDVILED 28). Reissued 2007.

12" 33⅓ RPM vinyl picture disc released 2005 on Back On Black (BOBV023PD), limited to 2000 copies.

Enhanced 2CD released 5th November 2012 on Peaceville Records (CDVILED415X).

12" 33⅓ RPM black or picture disc vinyl LP released 20th January 2017 on Peaceville Records (VILELP633). Picture disc limited to 1000 copies.

CD released 2020 in Brazil on Hellion Records (HEL 1454).

CD and 12" 33⅓ RPM 30th Anniversary edition vinyl LP released 24th June 2022 on Peaceville Records. Vinyl limited to:

- black vinyl
- white vinyl
- 666 copies on clear vinyl

Recorded at Creative Studios, August 1991, but released in the beginning of 1992.

20-year anniversary edition CD released at the end of 2012 by Peaceville Records. Comes in a digibook with liner notes by Fenriz and Nocturno Culto plus rare images. Also comes with an additional disc with the whole album commented by Fenriz and Nocturno Culto and the video-interview from the 2003 edition.

Thanks to UMUR, adg211288, Bosh66 for the updates


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Specialists/collaborators reviews

"A Blaze in the Northern Sky" is the 2nd full-length studio album by Norwegian black metal act Darkthrone. The album was released through Peaceville Records in February 1992. It´s the successor to "Soulside Journey" from 1991, but the instrumental part of the material for a full sophomore album was actually recorded in rehearsal in late 1990/early 1991, but shelved because the band felt a need for a drastic change in musical direction (the rehearsal was later released as the "Goatlord (1996)" album with added vocals).

"Soulside Journey (1991)" featured an occult themed technically well played old school Scandinavian death metal sound and was recorded at Sunlight Studios with producer Tomas Skogsberg, so while it´s not a Swedish death metal album, it has a lot of similar features to some of the prolific contemporary Swedish albums in the genre like "Left Hand Path (1990)" by Entombed, "Dark Recollections (1990)" by Carnage, and "Like an Ever Flowing Stream (1991)" by Dismember.

Stylistically the material on "A Blaze in the Northern Sky" very much feels like a determined and very deliberate attempt at writing and releasing something completely different and a way of distancing themselves from the contemporary Scandinavian death metal scene. "A Blaze in the Northern Sky" features a simple, raw, and lo-fi (compared to the sound production on the predecessor) produced black metal style (it´s artists like Hellhammer/Celtic Frost and Bathory who Darkthrone sound influenced by), which sounds like it´s a completely different band playing to the Darkthrone who released "Soulside Journey (1991)". The truth is it´s not, as the lineup who recorded the predecessor is intact, although bassist Dag Nilsen was on his way out (he is only credited as a session musician on the album).

I don´t know if it´s the change in musical direction or the fact that the bass is not audible in the thin high end sound production, which resulted in Nilsen leaving, but the changes in musical style and production values sure are drastic. It came as a complete shock to many fans of the debut album, but provided Darkthrone new fans, who found the new black metal direction interesting.

"A Blaze in the Northern Sky" features 6 tracks and a full playing time of 42:03 minutes, so most of the tracks are relatively long (with opening track "Kathaarian Life Code" clocking in at 10:39 minutes being the longest). Although some parts are repeated the tracks don´t follow a "regular" vers/chorus formula, and they are generally unconventionally structured. That´s one of the exciting features of the album (although a hook here and there could have made the album a bit more accessible), and the organic performances is another, but unfortunately the sound production is a bit of a mess.

I know that old school black metal releases are suppossed to sound thin (the bass not audible), raw to the bone, and almost demo like in nature, but to my ears that concept is taken a bit too far on "A Blaze in the Northern Sky". It´s just not a very well sounding release and it makes it hard to enjoy the music, which is generally not great, but not of a bad quality either. In my world that sums up to about a 3 star (60%) rating and I even feel like I´m stretching a bit here. I hate to rate what others consider a "classic" release so low, but personally there´s very little I perceive as quality features on the album. The songwriting is so and so (although I enjoy the anarchistic approach to structure) and the sound production is below normal standards for a studio release. Peaceville Records was also initially reluctant to release the album, as the label expected something a bit more like "Soulside Journey (1991)", but I guess time has proven both them and me wrong.
Though a legendary album now, Darkthrone’s A Blaze in the Northern Sky would have been a total shock to anyone previously following the band. Their debut was straight Death Metal, and though it did have a focus on melodies and cold atmospheres, other than that it had very little in common with this creature. I can only guess they started listening to Bathory and decided to go that route, cause I hear Bathory influence all over this. The biggest difference is instead of epic Vikings, the theme is Pagan winters.

A Blaze in the Northern Sky is just 6 long tracks filled with very competent Black Metal, consistent in quality from start to finish, and without many surprises. This is probably considered a landmark release in 2nd wave Black Metal due to its melodic tendencies and lyrical themes that steer away from Satanism. Interestingly, the production sounds a bit worse than their first album, maybe done intentionally to capture that authentic Black Metal sound. My favorite aspect here is the drumming, which is incredibly varied and has much more precision than most Black Metal at the time. The drummer knows when to drop into Doom territory and when to go all out, and does it all very well.

For me, I’ll say that while it is a great album, it didn’t live up to its hype. There’s nothing incredibly unique about it, and to me it’s just a Black Metal version of their debut – strong and competently played, but ultimately unmemorable. Definitely a great listen for that nocturnal winter feel though.
siLLy puPPy
Following an introduction that is eerily crystal clear and recorded during a time when the sun's rays shone down from the heavens above, we encounter a dark sinister muffled cacophonous din that signifies an ensuing journey of three Norwegians by the names Nocturno Culto, Zephyrous and Fenriz accompanied by their soon to be departed friend Dag.

The group takes us on a journey into the darkness of the northern Norwegian forests in the middle of the Pagan winter where their journey is illuminated by a sonic tension that serves as a kind of black metal radar that had to be invented for the previous death metal variety alone no longer served this purpose. An unholy union of the two took place.

On a course of approximately 42 minutes, the group continues their thunderous ride throughout the darkened lands where the threats of the shadowed horns of masterless demons thwart their progress to the promised lands. During the most desperate hours a sudden blaze in the northern sky serves as a guide to the direction in which the band would continue to unlock the Unholy Trinity.

Once unlocked the Trinity would serve as a template for other less adventurous souls to embark on a similar journey that DARKTHRONE had already set forth and with the remains of which would continue to reverberate into the present day. Part one of the trilogy is a masterpiece of epic proportions that has been laid upon us.
Few metal bands have ever so totally and drastically switched genre as Darkthrone did between their debut album and A Blaze In the Northern Sky. This first black metal album from the band is a true classic; more or less every kvlter than kvlt black metal band following it would go out of its way to recapture its aesthetic.

The band slip in an ornately produced opening instrumental before Kathaarian Life Code bursts forth in all its ugly, slow, doomy glory, which I think is a statement of aesthetic intent: it's a brief demonstration that the band can produce nicely-produced music if they wanted to, so the lo-fi nature of most of the album was not down to incompetence but a deliberate decision on their part. With the guitar lines melting together to form a sheer wall of noise of the sort Mayhem had previously mastered, Darkthrone brought to the equation the technical mastery of the talented death metal band they had previously been; they've previously described the album's secret as being playing death metal riffs in a black metal style.

This technical competence in terms of production and performance, combined with ambitious extended song structures (as opposed to the brief blasts of misanthropy favoured by the likes of Mayhem) saw the band drastically and permanently expand the boundaries of what a second wave black metal group could accomplish musically. The album as a whole is a classic of the genre, and an excellent starting point for any exploration of the subculture, particularly since the vestigal remnants of death metal can provide a few touchstones to help unpack exactly what it is the band are trying to achieve here. A triumph.

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