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Darkthrone - A Blaze in the Northern Sky Music Album Reviews

Each Sunday, Pitchfork takes an in-depth look at a significant album from the past, and any record not in our archives is eligible. Today, we revisit a tense, beautiful, lo-fi landmark from the second wave of black metal.
In the fall of 1971, a child is born in a remote village in Norway. He will one day rechristen himself Fenriz, after the Earth-swallowing wolf, Fenrir, who appears in Norse mythology and the Satanic Bible. But for now, he is Gylve Nagell, being raised by his grandmother, spending inordinate amounts of time alone. The pivotal moments of his childhood occur while listening to records, music introduced to him by an eccentric uncle named Stein. Pink Floyd catches his ear; a few songs by the Doors hold his attention; but it’s the English progressive rock band Uriah Heep that blows his mind. He’s entranced by the heavy organ sound, the cryptic lyrics, and the mysterious men with long hair who appear on the album’s cover. He cherishes the triple-fold LP like an heirloom from…

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Cousin Stizz - Trying to Find My Next Thrill Music Album Reviews

On his second album, the Boston rapper embraces his strengths, grows into his voice as a writer and draws lessons from his come-up.

Boston rapper Cousin Stizz has spent his career fighting to break into the mainstream. Since signing a major-label deal, he’s worked with big-name producers including Vinylz and WondaGurl, secured guest verses from established rappers like Offset and G-Eazy, and courted the zeitgeist with a variety of on-trend styles: flute-rap, Migos-style repetition, codeine rap. But despite these efforts, Stizz has yet to score a hit after four years in the public eye. The rapper retreats to his comfort zone on Trying to Find My Next Thrill, doubling down on the slow, hypnotic trap on which he made his name. This retrenchment turns out to be a smart move: The end result is Stizz’s most consistent release since his haunting debut, Suffolk County.


Cousin Stizz has always had excellent taste in beats, and for Trying to Find My Next Thrill, he’s tapped fellow Massachusetts native Lil Rich—with whom he’s worked since the start—to executive produce. The pair have sourced a head-turning set of instrumentals: Lil Rich’s beat on “Perfect” sounds like heavy machinery echoing through a wet basement; Take A Daytrip turns in a fizzy club banger on “STP”; and on “Anonymous,” ascendant celebrity producer Kenny Beats punctuates a kaleidoscope of chirpy tones with pillowy drum hits. Stizz anchors everything with his deliberate, subtly melodic flows.

If Trying to Find My Next Thrill has fewer obvious standouts than One Night Only, that’s only because it’s stronger throughout. “Toast 2 That” is a dazzling trap anthem, built atop a twinkling, minor-key instrumental laced with melodica. Stizz’s motivational speeches are well-documented but here, he opens with an outright pep talk (“All my niggas in the jail, man, we always think about you, bruh/Keep your head up high, for real, for real”) before Freddie Gibbs drops a show-stopping guest verse, modulating his speed as he approaches the beat from all sides. On “Off With Ya Head!” Stizz stabilizes a wobbly beat with his unshakable delivery. But here, he allows himself to break character, yelping, “You ain’t stick to the script, now it’s off with ya head!” with the theatrical flair of a deranged monarch. “Perfect” feels a bit rote, but Stizz allows the subject of his desire a response, in the form of a playfully assured verse from City Girls’ Yung Miami (“Top of the Ritz getting ate like a steak,” “Yes, I’m a fool for the carats/Spirit animal is a rabbit”).

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In hindsight, One Night Only was an album shaped by growing pains: not only was it full of stylistic experiments, it also found Stizz reveling in his newfound wealth and status in the most generic terms. With Trying to Find My Next Thrill, he’s figured out that it’s not the lifestyle that he leads but rather, the distance between where he came from and where he now sits that makes for his best writing. On “Meds,” he confides that his weed habit is a coping mechanism for PTSD, and on “Soso,” he reminds himself not to get too comfortable. “The Message” finds Stizz in full storytelling mode, narrating the mistakes of his youth with the hindsight of a man who made it out, while on “Traumatized,” he asks a detractor, “How could I stop now? I'm selling hope.” At its best, Trying to Find My Next Thrill reveals Cousin Stizz to be a reflective and self-aware writer, an everyman behind the jewelry and designer clothes.


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