Many new fans who just got into black metal are often left wondering why shit albums like Transilvanian Hunger get such high praise in the eyes of the critics. They think that maybe they are missing something, that Transilvanian Hunger is perhaps an acquired taste that they don't fully "understand" yet, when in fact it's just the media trying once again promote the "satanic inner circle (jerk)" at the expense of the bands that can actually play the music and not just look like clowns in corpse paint.
There are indeed quite a few things missing in this album : talent, conviction, atmosphere, soul. As for Transilvanian Hunger being an acquired musical taste, it only is if you consider a pile of gorilla crap an acquired culinary taste.
I'll assume most readers of this review don't revel in ingesting monkey feces, and therefore we will just call out Transilvanian Hunger for what it is : terribly played music and boring fake metal.
Darkthrone are no strangers to playing lazy and one-dimensional "raw" black metal, but Transilvanian Hunger is a new low even for them.
Released in 1994, alongside several other substandard yet notoriously acclaimed black metal acts, Transilvanian Hunger manages to make even the worst of the parody of the extreme metal genre that is the Norwegian scene sound almost halfway decent. Almost.
On all eight songs of this pathetic excuse for an album, you can distinctly hear the same riff repeated over and over again with almost no variation in the drumming or in the tempo.
Now that is not to say that all black metal needs to be a technical slug-fest, but if you're trying to play raw atmospheric black metal there is obviously a right way to do it (think Von, Phantom, Profanatica) and a wrong way to do it. Guess which one Darkthrone chose.
Passing on the boring vocals, on the blatantly stolen riffs (Demoncy anyone ?) and on the fact that they use a ton of distortion not to create a raw atmosphere but rather to attempt to hide their lack of musical capability, which they don't even manage to do by the way as it is still very apparent (missed notes, failed solos), the one thing that stands out as excruciatingly appalling is the drum work.
I can swear that on every track the drums slow down by at least 30 bpm by the end of each song and that's not even on purpose. Fenriz, the drummer, can't even hold the tempo together let alone create an effective wall of sound to add to the nonexistent atmosphere on this album.
When all is said an done, there is no reason for Transilvanian Hunger to be regarded as anything else than a pure musical failure.
The album is totally linear, it has no soul or emotion despite the vocalist sounding like an emo teenager crying over his ex-girlfriend (someone should explain to them what black metal vocals are supposed to sound like btw) and that alone wouldn't even be a problem if the band members knew how to play their instruments decently... but even that they can't do ! So of course they try to hide their musical ineptitude behind a wall of distortion that only serves to accentuate the epic fail that is Transilvanian Hunger.
Seriously, someone should write an entire book on shit metal and document the whole thing. Of course, all the tracks on albums like Transilvanian Hunger are probably the result of a 5 minute rehearsal from the drunk and stoned members of Darkthrone so there probably isn't much to document anyway. Unfortunately for them, even drugs and alcohol can't possibly justify the abysmal quality of music on this album.
Aside from the media trying to portray alleged satanic church burners, which now even the band members of Darkthrone deny being, as talented musicians (mock devil worship and corpse paint sell more than good music apparently), I honestly just don't understand the praise this album received in 1994.
My only theory is that, because black metal didn't have a lot of well known mainstream releases in 1994, all the emo fanboys were desperate for something to lord over their friends who were all listen to the equally crappy De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas or In The Nightside Eclipse and they therefore settled for the lesser known Transilvanian Hunger as a way of justifying their fandom for an already overrated and talentless scene.
Transilvanian Hunger will go down in history as one of the bigger and smellier "shits" in the metal underground. There is really nothing good about the album aside from when it ends, and even by then you've realized that you could have done an infinite of things more productive with your time than listen to wannabe satanists with no musical talent whatsoever.
And perhaps the most depressing aspect of Transilvanian Hunger is that it's not nearly as bad as some of the other "true black metal" failures that spawned during the same era.
Transilvanian Hunger score: 1/10 (Joke Metal)