It’s been 9 years since Norwegian black metal legends Immortal released their hugely anticipated comeback album ‘All Shall Fall’. Less than a decade and a legal dispute later, we’ve got another hugely anticipated comeback album! Following the departure of one half of the original line-up and vocalist Abbath in 2015, original guitarist Demonaz has picked up the mantle working with mainstay drummer Horgh and long-term producer Peter Tägtgren who has filled in on bass duties. With the success of Abbath’s debut solo record 3 years ago, this album has a lot to live up to – especially when you consider that Demonaz has been unable to play guitar on any Immortal record since ‘Blizzard Beasts’ due to tendinitis. This will be the first Immortal album in 20 years where both lyrics and composition have been accredited to Demonaz.
Acute tendinitis or not, there is evidently absolutely no issue with speed on this record. It. Is. Fast. The eponymous opening track has the most ear-shattering intro with blistering drums coming in like a train wreck! The pace and power of the opening track is completely unrelenting, even the breaks in the music are only slight and the drums don’t even pause for breath – it’s like watching a car drive top speed into a brick wall and when you fully expect the wall to bring everything to a sudden halt, the car completely annihilates the wall, sending the bricks flying like pieces of Lego.
The split second of silence at the end of the first song honestly feels like a chance to come up for air before unceremoniously being dragged back down to the depths – ‘Into Battle Ride’ starts
just as furiously as the first track and, if anything, is even catchier. That’s something that really strikes me with these songs, they’re all catchy as fuck. It’s not something usually associated
with black metal at all, even Immortal, but I’m finding myself screaming along to the main hook of each of these songs. It’s evident how much influence Demonaz has had on the last 20 years of
Immortal – playing or not, as these songs fit perfectly into the back catalogue. But there are a few minor things in Abbath’s absence which stand out, like the lack of tempo changes in songs which
were prevalent in some of the older releases and, as previously mentioned, I don’t remember any Immortal songs sticking in my head this easily.
‘Gates to Blashyrkh’ switches the jaw-jarring blasts for a really heavy groove which is a subtle but excellent change of pace, also introducing the first of several haunting clean riffs which just perch perfectly amongst the chaos – the most notable of which is towards the end of the song as it leads into the most wall-punching moment of the album. It’s so simple, just a few ‘80s chord progression punches over some double pedal but the execution is flawless. Breakdowns these days are so unbearably predictable but this is just subtle, simple and incredibly effective. It’s completely in keeping with the rest of the song but it just brings a smile to my face as I’m completely sub-consciously headbanging without realizing – infectious stuff!
‘Grim and Dark’, other than having the most black metal name possibly ever, just adds to the wide-ranging scope of this album. This is textbook Norwegian black metal in all different guises. ‘Called to Ice’ is basically just 5 minutes of double-kick which most bands would be slated for but it’s what you’d expect from a song on this record, it completely works.
Through all 8 tracks, there’s never a dull moment, each of these songs stands up on its own and, maybe because it’s been so long in the making, none of this feels like filler. ‘Where Mountains Rise’ slows things down again and has an even more memorable hook than the other songs – the more this album goes on the more evident it is that this, intentionally or not, is a bridge between the previously very exclusive black metal scene of the ‘90s and the modern mainstream of heavy music fans. It has all the feel and trademark elements of a black metal record wrapped up into 8 tracks which are easily accessible to any fan of the heavier end of music.
The album closes on the single which was released to promote this album ‘Mighty Ravendark’. A 9-minute long epic which nicely sums up the album really – from its clean guitar intro, shredding lead licks, hi-hat filled drum beats, prolific double kick all the way through to its catchy as all Helvete chorus.
Despite fears that this album may be lacking due to potential ‘ring rust’ on the part of Demonaz, this album is absolutely the opposite. Its bridge from a once fairly gated community to the rest of the world may upset some die-hard black metal fans but this album really is a masterclass in the excellent execution of the genre.
You can find the album, including awesome limited edition vinyl, CD’s and the digital download at: https://www.nuclearblast.de/en/label/music/band/discography/details/5384490.70964.northern-chaos-gods.html
On this album, Immortal are:
Demonaz (vocals, guitars)
Peter Tägtgren (session bass)
Northern Chaos Gods
Into Battle Ride
Gates to Blashyrkh
Grim and Dark
Called to Ice
Where Mountains Rise
Blacker Of Worlds