I’ve railed against Darkthrone clones a lot here on Resounding Footsteps. I really don’t like them; I think that they are talentless monkeys that are trying to emulate one of the greatest black metal bands in history. Darkthrone is a sacred comparison to me, one I do not give out lightly. If I ever compare a band or a piece of music to Darkthrone then you will know that it’s really fucking good. But why is Darkthrone considered the holy grail of black metal comparisons? It’s not just me that sees Darkthrone as the golden goose, throughout the black metal subculture there are few bands that garner lots of attention the way Darkthrone does without really doing anything. Mayhem is one, usually when there is a lot of drama surrounding the band (for good or ill) or their sound is very primitive yet complex, and Burzum gets a few but people tend to shy away from wanting to sound like and emulate a lot of what Varg stands for. Darkthrone remains pure of the outside nonsense. They might be eccentric and eclectic in their personal lives but those lives don’t intersect with their black metal personas often. Darkthrone represents a blank slate. Darkthrone is a formula as much as it is a band and it’s a fairly simple formula nowadays, that’s why they are so prone to clone bands that want to leech off their image and their sound.
All of that being said I have always hoped that there might be bands out there in the world that paid tribute to Darkthrone without being a clone. It’s the mental equivalent of panning for gold in a river of shit. Finding a band that is inspired by Darkthrone rather than simply a clone is not easy today. We are bombarded by horrible production on Bandcamp and overrun with pseudo-superevil imagery on Facebook. But every once in a while, something comes through. It’s important to recognize it when it comes because these gems can disappear as fast as they appeared. Case in point, Croc Noir. They’ve only been around since early 2016, hailing from the Alsace region of France. Their first EP, Froid, sounds like it could be a lost album of Darkthrone from the “Transylvanian Hunger” era. Yes. These guys are that good and such a compliment I only give out if the band image, sound, and overall appeal actually merit the honor. Croc Noir deserves that honor many times over. When I first listened to them I liked them, the second, third, and fourth, I loved them. They have a very simple approach to black metal and the way it should be written and recorded, just like Darkthrone.
The difference here, with Croc Noir, is that I feel these guys were inspired by Darkthrone’s sound, that they wanted to build an album rather than an image. And they succeeded. The sound is cold and thin, primitive in every respect. The music is harsh and virulent, throwing its own weight around inside the listener’s head rather than allowing the musician to control the sound. With primitive production the sound of the music itself is more powerful because it has to become strong and memorable on its own. That’s why so many clones have failed in the past, they work so hard to make it sound like something that the sound cannot be anything. Music is not meant to be crafted to a certain, specific image. Music is meant to carve itself. Music is meant to carve the musician as much as the musician carves the music. Darkthrone clones will never be able to achieve their goals because they don’t respect the music and the music, in turn, betrays them because they refuse to acknowledge its agency.
Croc Noir not only acknowledges the agency of the music but allows it to grow and form itself. They may play the instruments but they have no control over how the music sounds. That’s the way it should be. Music, raw black metal especially, is a wild, ravenous beast that must be allowed to rampage where it chooses. It can only be enjoyed by the listener when it has full reign over what it wants. Black metal is a living creature that grows, changes, and alters its own form; all those that try to force it into a box are only killing it. They are not persevering what black metal was and can be.
Allow black metal to be free, allow the music to precede the image. The image of the music and the band need not be created by the band. The sound, good or bad, will determine that. So many Darkthrone clones have tried to make an image before they have a sound and they have looked foolish and formulaic. They have delegitimized themselves because instead of forging their own image in their sound they have recreated it, Image cannot be recreated, if it is then it is not an image of the band it is a poor reflection of the culture that birthed it. Croc Noir have their own image, a secretive and mysterious image that neither adds nor detracts from the music. It was created by the sound and the will of the artist but it remains free from either.
Froid was a joy to find and a joy to listen to. Listen to it over and over, allow the music to swell and fill every corner of your mind. The guitars, the drums, the vocals, the bass. Everything. Every sound produced by the artist and reformed for the listener is a treat, a cold, desolate treat that all fans of raw black metal desperately need. Froid is a triumph. It shows everyone out there that artists can be inspired by someone else and not turn into a hapless clone. Froid and Croc Noir is a breath of fresh air (metaphorically) in a scene that’s been chocked with pretenders and clones. Rise above the muck and listen to Froid.
Listen and support!