Sound — 7
Casual fans will forever remember Darkthrone for their black metal efforts with the minimalistic production, or the photoshopped cover of Transylvanian Hunger that circulates the internet. However, Circle the Wagons and their other recent efforts has little in common with those releases and is more akin to punk-metal, and early primal thrash. Production-wise, it is by contemporary standards very much a raw, garage-sounding album with minimal editing and polish. You can hear the instruments scratch and screech, the drums aren't as isolated as on most albums in the era of Andy Sneap and the guitars don't have the level of chug' and oomph' of modern day metal albums. But Circle the Wagons is produced in the manner that fits the album the best. After all, imagine Venom's classic albums with the production of Nevermore, Arch Enemy and similar bands and you soon realize that an album like Circle the Wagons demands a raw, gritty production.
Lyrics — 6
The mad shrieks or guttural vocals are nowhere to be heard and instead clean vocals with a distinct first-take vibe to them dominate this effort. The delivery of the occasional vocal harmony also suggests that it wasn't so much about the outcome as it was about trying out things when they started writing and recording Circle the Wagons.
Overall Impression — 6
It is a bit of a pity that Darkthrone have, at this point in time, released what feels and seems like a thousand albums. When you open a dictionary and look up the word prolific', there ought to be a picture of or a reference to Darkthrone. Circle the Wagons is not one of the best albums you'll hear this year, but it is immensely charming with titles like I Am The Graves of the 80's, Stylized Corpse and I Am The Working Class, with the latter sporting one of the most forced choruses you'll hear all year. The proto-thrash riffs are either harmless and uneventful, or tasty and reminiscent of the days when that style of riffing was new and fresh. Circle the Wagons has some good tunes, good riffs and a big bucket of ugly, yet unmistakeable charm. It is the antithesis of all the over-written and over-produced modern metal albums we hear and read so much about, but with that being said, let's not flood the market with albums like Circle the Wagons. It is enjoyable and charming because it is raw, gives a big nod to the old days and because it is far from perfect.