Darkthrone - Soulside Journey
Peaceville Records
Death Metal
11 songs (41:44)
Release year: 1991
Darkthrone, Peaceville Records
Reviewed by Goat
Archive review

Although Darkthrone are famous for being the quintessential Black Metal band, they didn’t start out as such. No question about it, A Blaze In The Northern Sky is a remarkable album and an extremely influential one, but for their debut full-length Darkthrone played a rather enjoyably technical form of Entombed-influenced Death Metal, not yet having been converted to kvltdom by Euronymous. Once you realise what an inspiration the Swedes were, then it’s hard to see why you haven’t noticed this strain of influence before. Comparing Left Hand Path and Soulside Journey it seems obvious, from the music to the lyrics, and Nocturno’s vocals are quite Petrovian. It’s not as good as that Swedish classic, as few albums are, yet whilst some may even go as far as accusing it of being monotonous, this is almost certainly the most catchy Darkthrone were up until Too Old, Too Cold.

Of course, Soulside Journey is not that different from Darkthrone’s later works; the actual difference between Soulside Journey and A Blaze... is less than you’d think, in some ways less even than that of A Blaze... and Under A Funeral Moon! Sure, Soulside Journey is more technical, but this is unmistakably Darkthrone, and though Fenriz and Nocturno Culto weren’t using their nom-de-plumes back then there’s no mistaking those deep growls from the latter. Heck, the self-styled ‘Hank Amarillo’ reveals far better drumming prowess here than he likes to on Darkthrone’s Blacker albums, yet it’s not a million miles away from what devotees of the band post-Soulside are used to. Darkthrone are amongst the inventors of ironic sloppiness in Black Metal, and yet listening to Soulside Journey and knowing that the two could have gone on to be extremely respected for their instrumental skills is quite ironic as well.

Looking at this album for what it is, however, the ride’s a rollercoaster. Opening blast Cromlech is truly excellent, synths wailing for a brief second before the band rip out of the gate, riffing hard and powerfully with one of the most awesome breakdowns you’ll have ever heard and some decent songwriting keeping the twists coming, and songs stick to a high level of quality afterwards. Sunrise Over Locus Mortis is a piledriver, but placed as it is between Cromlech and the killer title track it’s a fair bet that you won’t remember much of it, as the title track does essentially the same thing but better. Little moments like the bass trill in Accumulation Of Generalisation are excellent, Fenriz and Nocturno being joined for this album by the mysterious Dag Nilsen, who left when the band turned Black Metal and was uncredited for his input on A Blaze In The Northern Sky.

If you don’t headbang uncontrollably to Neptune Towers’ brutal riffing and gorgeous solo, then you are not worthy, it’s as simple as that, yet Soulside Journey isn’t quite a perfect album, being slightly samey at times and never quite hitting as high marks as the true greats of old-school Death Metal can. This album is more than a curio but less than mandatory; you will never regret owning it, but neither will it have quite the same effect as A Blaze In The Northern Sky and the albums afterwards. Be careful not to dismiss it outright, however, the likes of Iconoclasm Sweeps Cappadocia mixed progressive-minded Death Metal and Doom way ahead of their time, whilst The Watchtower is forward-looking in a way that’s quite unnerving. Considering that this was released in 1991, this is a damn fine piece of Death Metal that few fans will dislike.

Killing Songs :
Cromlech, Soulside Journey, Neptune Towers, Sempiturnal Sepulchrality, The Watchtower
Goat quoted 87 / 100
Kyle quoted 91 / 100
Other albums by Darkthrone that we have reviewed:
Darkthrone - Arctic Thunder reviewed by Goat and quoted 70 / 100
Darkthrone - The Underground Resistance reviewed by Goat and quoted 75 / 100
Darkthrone - The Cult Is Alive reviewed by Goat and quoted 84 / 100
Darkthrone - Plaguewielder reviewed by Goat and quoted 80 / 100
Darkthrone - Circle the Wagons reviewed by Kyle and quoted 82 / 100
To see all 18 reviews click here
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