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Nocturno Culto’s 10 Most Wicked Performances After Darkthrone’s Unholy Trinity


Today marks the 50th birthday of one metal’s two greatest men, Ted Arvid Skjellum, better known to the world as Nocturno Culto, the more reserved half of pioneering “True Norwegian Black Metal” band Darkthrone. The group was founded by the only other metal messiah of equal caliber, Leif Gylve Nagell, AKA Fenriz. Like Fenriz, Nocturno acts as a vocalist, multi-instrumentalist, lyricist, and composer.

A Blaze in the Northern SkyUnder a Funeral Moon (1993), and Transilvanian Hunger (1994) constitute Darkthrone’s ‘Unholy Trinity,’ three albums that are brutal beyond measure. But today’s list of Nocturno’s most wicked songs is intended to reflect the variety of his talents. There are so many more sassy and bloodthirsty tracks that some have forgotten, from albums like Plaguewielder (2001), Hate Them(2003), Sardonic Wrath (2004), and Dark Thrones and Black Flags (2008). Meanwhile, if you are wondering why songs like “Fuck Off and Die” and “Graveyard Slut” are not included below, it is because Fenriz wrote and sang them. 

As we celebrate Nocturno Culto’s 50th birthday, we look back at his achievements with Darkthrone, and perhaps more importantly, beyond. We have chosen to focus on moments after Darkthrone’s ‘Unholy Trinity,’ in order to change things up (and since so many are focused on the 30th anniversary of A Blaze in the Northern Sky on February 26th). Allow the following song picks to dazzle you with their “Ravishing Grimness.” 

Darkthrone, “Inbred Vermin” (Arctic Thunder, 2017)

“Inbred Vermin” ranks among the boldest songs of all-time. “Call for the pesticide. Time will smoke out the rats. Breed like swarms getting weaker by the minute” — Nocturno’s low, gravelly voice on this outrageous track is just too ‘necro’ to be true. This cut is wedged between “Boreal Fiends” and the album’s title track, “Arctic Thunder.” Nocturno composed the music and the lyrics for it, the same being true of “Burial Bliss” and “Deep Lake Trespass.” Fenriz has stated that Arctic Thunder is one of two albums with his favorite drum sound, perhaps stemming from the fact that the band recorded Arctic Thunder in the fetid bomb shelter where they had practiced from 1988 to 1990. Although they returned for the making of Old Star (2019), Darkthrone decided to record follow-up Eternal Hails…… (2021) in an actual studio (arguably to its discredit). 

Darkthrone, “Shut Up” (The Cult Is Alive, 2006)

“Shut Up” will slay you with its ruffian attitude. The track is the penultimate song on the band’s 2006 in-your-face masterpiece The Cult Is Alive (2006). The lyrics were written by Fenriz, with the music was composed by Nocturno. Some choice words include, “Shut up, shut up. I’ll stick to my guns now you stick to yours. Sit down. Let’s not pretend that I have to use force. Are you Satan? I don’t think so. You copy my style. And you call yourself a man. You want a piece of me? Yeah… You do. Begging for this and asking for that. Shut up, fucking twat.” The song closes: “Never could fathom my hate. Unable to take a hint. You haven’t got a clue. Satanism is lost on you.” This track proves that Darkthrone never fail to “muffle your inner choir” with their continued audacity. 

Darkthrone, “Splitkein Fever” (F.O.A.D., 2007)

Fenriz wrote the scathing lyrics for F.O.A.D. (2007), but only Nocturno Culto could breathe such a putrid stench of death into them. Everything that Nocturno does on the record sounds exceptionally savage. In case you are wondering, the word “Splitkein,” which means “split cane,” refers to a Norwegian ski manufacturer that produced glue-laminated skis. The Brussels International Exposition of 1935 honored the Splitkein Factorym, and they soon became a point of pride for skiers. Thus, Nocturno vents his anger from a high perch of elitist conceit: “Far away from you. Disgusting subhuman fuck. You think you rule the world. Up my ass, tough luck! I have my world here. You think you are right. But you can’t touch me here. The forest is cold and white. Maximum distance to your idiocy. While you read and study a book. Yes, you are in many and increasing. Like flies to a pile of shit.” Darkthrone brilliantly ridicule pseudo-intellectualism elsewhere, such as in “Lesser Men’’ from The Underground Resistance (2013): “Molecular structure defines the imaginary balls. Vaporizing intellectual leftovers. The wall of life is closing in.” “Wake of the Awakened” from Eternal Hails…… (2021) also includes the lines: “Lifetimes of thoughts build layers of walls around you. Lesser and lesser in common with the humans.”

As we have already seen with “Shut Up,” Nocturno’s music may be combined with Fenriz’s lyrics or vice versa. Fenriz has explained that neither the band’s lyrics and the songwriting inspire one another, nor do they contain corresponding concepts. Ted usually decides which lyrics he will sing on a given track. 

Sarke, “Old” (Vorunah, 2009)

Neither Nocturno Culto nor his music will ever age. “Old” is the fifth song on Sarke’s debut album, Vorunah (2009). Simple yet potent, the lyrics are so amusing that they will feel like a blow to the gut: “The smell of museum. The rocking chair. Dead skin. The silver hair. I’m old. I’m dying. Hell can wait. I’m always late.”

In total, Sarke have released seven albums. Although Nocturno initially refused to join the project, which was founded by Thomas “Sarke” Bergli, he has been with the band from the very beginning. His trust in Thomas, who acts as the group’s lyricist and composer, is truly commendable. Although Sarke may not have achieved the commercial success that they could have, their music is simply priceless. In this respect, Nocturno’s faith has paid off.

Urgehal, “The Iron Children” (Aeons In Sodom, 2016) 

“The Iron Children” hails from Urgehal’s final album, Aeons in Sodom (2016). The record features contributions from the great Trondr Nefas, who died from a stroke in 2012. Although Trondr was just 34 years old, the Vulture Lord musician left behind an impressive body of work, as well as a formidable legacy that would make any aspiring metalhead shudder. Over the years, the multi-instrumentalist participated in a number of projects. In 1992, Trondr co-founded Urgehal with Enzifer, and although he recorded drums and bass for Urgehal at times, his main responsibilities in the group were vocals and lead guitar. Before his death, Trondr had begun working on a new Urgehal album. 

Thus, Aeons in Sodom was created with the help of guitar riffs that the deceased genius had left behind. You can hear his wrathful voice on the haunting opening track, “Dødsrite” (“Death Rite”). Vocals for the rest of the songs were provided by Trondr’s friends — Shining’s Niklas Kvarforth, Carpathian Forest’s Nattefrost, and many others. Friends also helped Enzifer and drummer Uruz fill in instruments and lyrics as needed. Although the album is a touching tribute, even the greatest musicians in metal fail to replace Trondr’s unique creative voice. Three months after the release of Aeons in Sodom, an all-star cast would again gather for a memorial concert in Trondr’s honor. The event was dubbed “Death Is Complete.”

Trondr Nefas penned the lyrics for four of Aeons in Sodom’s songs. “The Iron Children,” for example, happens to be “very Trondr.” Nocturno commands: “Study the laws of your Father. Wisdom written in human blood. Obey the law of the claw. Make the Christian bitches crawl. Desecrate. Operate. Eliminate. Obey!” These words also seem eerie in retrospect: “Your wings, teeth, and horns are growing. As demons, you’ll soon ride the sky.” Nocturno rasps as if in his death throes: “As dragons, you’re swarming around your horde. And as the solar eclipse stands eternal. And as darkness all throughout the end of time. You shall all become immortal.” Listen for an awesome guitar solo by Trondr towards the end of this ultra-militant song.

Darkthrone, “Stylized Corpse” (Circle the Wagons, 2010)

Darkthrone’s Circle the Wagons (2010) was the second release in a trilogy of crust-punk inspired albums, the covers of which were illustrated by artist Dennis Dread. Before this, Darkthrone had infused The Cult is Alive (2006) with a dose of punk that seemed shocking at the time. That is not to say, however, that Darkthrone had not previously laced their music with elements of punk and other genres. In fact, Darkthrone have mixed genres on all of their albums, except Under a Funeral Moon (1993), which Fenriz has described as their only pure black metal album.   

“Stylized Corpse” is one of the most unique songs that you will ever hear. Although Nocturno has expressed that he feels lucky to work with Fenriz’s lyrics, he constantly proves that he is a brilliant wordsmith as well. Nocturno’s delivery on “Stylized Corpse” is both masculine and creepy: “Chain you to the wall. Blowtorch literally open[s] your eyes. You feel superior now? All you can do, is imagine my world. Let the chipmunks feast on your heart.” He continues: “Oh, this luxury life. All the juices of lies. Doesn’t smell like a bowl of fruit/ But I am strong and brute.”

Mork, “Svartmalt” (Katedralen, 2021)

There may be a lot of division in the modern black metal scene, but nearly everyone agrees that Mork, the one-man project of the 37-year-old genius Thomas Eriksen, is amazing. Thomas enlists the help of talented musicians, such as ex-Borknagar and ex-Sarke player Asgeir Mickelson, for live shows. He occasionally includes guest artists on his albums, such as Dimmu Borgir’s Silenoz, Skepticism’s Eero Pöyry, and Kampfar’s Dolk.

Nocturno sang “Hudbreiderens revir” on Mork’s second album, Den vandrende skygge (2016). The legend returned to murder “Svartmalt” (“Painted Black”) on Mork’s latest release, Katedralen (2021). The song begins with Eriksen’s voice: “Håpet er ute. Ingen fremtid å gripe. Kun grå regnfulle skyer. Et sinn uten viljestyrke (The hope is out. No future to seize. Just a rain-filled sky. The mind without willpower).”

“Painted Black” is not only retro, it is infectious as (Heaven and) Hell. There’s some Tony Iommi at play here; the dark song actually feels bluesy and even chill, despite the lyrics and cutting vocals that seem to be coated with shards of glass from “et knust speilhus (a broken mirror-house).” Thus, a melodramatic tone is averted. Although the title may seem audacious, “Svartmalt” is an instant classic, just like the whole of Katedralen. It’s wonderful to see two generations collaborating so beautifully; Thomas is the “Lysbæreren” (Light-Bearer) of his generation. 

Sarke, “Pessimist” (Oldarhian, 2012)

“Pessimist” is a highlight from Sarke’s stunning sophomore album, Oldharian (2008). The “arrogant and cold” track begins like an earthquake: “Antisocial, cruel behavior mental torture. Life forsaken, isolated. Lost ambitions. Cleansed by suffering. Catharsis negative.” The music becomes whimsical at times, which makes sense — Sarke’s work is often a mixture of trippy and straightforward. With daring and hypnotic songs like these, Sarke will ensure that you never see the light of day because you will be glued to your speakers.

In keeping with today’s theme, we also recommend “Ties of Blood” and “Rebellious Bastard” from Gastwerso (2019). “The Wicked’s Transient Sleep” from the dark album Bogefold (2016) is another clear choice. Also make sure to check out “Punishment to Confessions” from Viige Urh (2017), as well as anything from their album Allsighr (2021), which contains songs like “Bleak Reflections” and “Beheading of the Circus Director.” The truth is that you cannot go wrong with any of Sarke’s work, all of which is phenomenal.

Darkthrone, “En vind av sorg” (Panzerfaust, 1995)

“En vind av sorg,” or “A Wind of Grief,” is the opening song on Darkthrone’s Panzerfaust (1995). It immediately hits you with “en eim av Frost på en allerede Frossen sjel (a whiff of frost on an already frozen soul).” This track elicits existential angst that will lay as heavily on the listener as a millstone around their neck, reminding one of “Norrøners tro og skikk (the faith and customs of the Norse).” Nocturno growls: “Til Skogen hjem en kom. Og trakk luften inn. Her lukter det Kristen manns blod. Igler på Våre Hjerter (To the forest one came home. And drew the air in. Here, it smells of Christian man’s blood. Leeches on our hearts).” 

The nostalgic “En vind av sorg” is strongly reminiscent of the content found on Darkthrone’s previous effort, Transilvanian Hunger (1994). As was the case with Transilvanian Hunger, Fenriz recorded all of the instruments on Panzerfaust, influenced by ’80s Bathory (Transilvanian Hunger was released on the 28th birthday of Bathory’s now-deceased mastermind, Quorthon.)

Gift of Gods, “Enlightening Strikes” (Receive EP, 2013)

Under the Gift of Gods moniker, Nocturno Culto released a lone EP called Receive, playing all of the instruments on the four songs therein. Stein Aage Hubred sang the third track, which is a cover of Universe’s 1985 song “Looking for an Answer.” (Stein Aage is the brother of Kjell Arne Hubred, whose voice has appeared on three Darkthrone albums.) This doomy heavy metal project screams, “I Am the Graves of the ’80s!” Much like with Sarke, Nocturno explores his love for past decades in a way that differs greatly from his work with Darkthrone, even though Darkthrone loves to explore heavy metal and other influences, as noted. This groovy solo project was recorded on Necrohell 2, a portable mini studio that was purchased by Nocturno. All albums from The Cult Is Alive (2006) to Old Star (2019) were made on this device. “Enlightening Strikes” begins: “In a nest of pus we dwell. The soul is like an empty shell. Can anyone bound to this life enlighten me before the real idiocy strikes?”

BONUS: Darkthrone, “Snowfall”

What better way to close this list than with the first song on which Nocturno and Fenriz collaborated? “Snowfall” may not seem like the most evil track ever written, but it is definitely wicked cool. This enrapturing instrumental hails from Darkthrone’s second demo, A New Dimension (1988). “Snowfall” was inspired by English Dogs and Metallica, and the sprawling number sustains its momentum for a grand total of slightly over nine minutes. Ronny Sorkness of Valhall contributed an introduction. Fans may be amused to learn that A New Dimension  was recorded on a cassette deck that belonged to Nocturno’s mother. 

The chemistry between Darkthrone’s young musicians imbues “Snowfall” with a youthful spirit of fun, and as always, Fenriz’s drumming is immediately recognizable. To this day, “Snowfall” remains one of Nocturno and Fenriz’s “fave” songs. Surprisingly, Fenriz told Anthony Morgan of Lucem Fero that the tracks on F.O.A.D. (2007) “… are closest to our song ‘Snowfall’…” In recent years, Fenriz has emphasized that Darkthrone has yet again returned to the structure of their epic starting point. During an interview with Louder Than War, Fenriz stated that “Snowfall” “is what we’ve been closing in on since 2015 really… so it’s come full circle…”

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