Immortal – Northern Chaos Gods
With the release of “Northern Chaos Gods”, Immortal make their best to live up to their name and returns from the realm of the dead to show that, once again, this band is something to be counted with, even after death! With this album Immortal make their third reboot, and delivers one of the stronger albums in the later part of the Immortal discography!
Immortals road to the top of the snow-covered mountain peaks have been a quite winding path, lined with hinders and obstacles, but with their ice cold take on Black Metal they have, even though never sharing either the religious or ideological aspect of their contemporary genre colleagues, always been counted as a core group in the second wave of Black Metal.
Releasing their first full length album as early as 1991, the more or less genre-defining “Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticism”, they immediately set the expectations high and then peaked early in the career with the sequel, the whirlwind phased “Pure Holocaust”, setting the standard on how fast and brutal Black Metal should be delivered. Immortal then continued their journey on the same path with the, albeit a bit more epic, also great “Battles of The North”.
After that, the story seemed to have come to an end, with the release of the fan dividing, either love or hate, “Morbid Angel goes Black Metal”-sounding, album “Blizzard Beasts”, as one of the principal members and co-founder of the band, guitarist “Demonaz Doom Occulta” suffered severe tendonitis in his arm and thus could no longer deliver the fast and complex guitars Immortals music demanded.
Immortal however survived this ordeal, and with remaining original member “Abbath Doom Occulta” at the helm, Demonaz taking a step back concentrating on writing the lyrics for the band, a new era of Immortal begun. An era which became their most successful period up until now. Immortal adopted an increasingly epic form and with that, became a little more accessible on the following three albums to come. After the last album of that era, the successful “Sons of Northern Darkness”, an album that, for a band still considered as “true”, reached unsuspected popularity even outside the Black Metal-sphere, Abbath shocked their growing fan base by announcing that the band suddenly, and due to personal reasons, was dissolved.
Immortal, however, arose to the world of the living again with the, among fans well-received, comeback album “All Shall Fall” in 2009. Although critically acclaimed, in my opinion this record was hardly nothing more than a bland parody of Immortal and it carried far too many similarities with Abbaths, in my eyes not very exciting, Heavy Metal-sounding solo project “I”.
Therefore, my hopes were somewhat low when I found out that Immortal, which had once again been dissolved in the spring of 2015, once again had been resurrected from its frozen grave, just a few months later. Abbath however, was out of the band, kicked from his own creation by long term drummer Horgh and the returning Demonaz who had once again picked up the guitar. The subsequent conflict about the rights to use the band name really didn’t feel like a good growing ground for a new Immortal album, but surprisingly, but very welcome, Demonaz and Horgh did put my doubts on shame and with “Northern Chaos Gods” they show that not only love, but also good music starts with a fuss!
Already by the high speed riffing of the initial title song, you realize that this is not the Immortal that released “All Shall Fall”, but something different, far more aggressive, blasting out their icy serenades of doom and death. Although it may not be at the same furious level as on “Pure Holocaust”, it is a real blast fest, both in the first song but also here and there in the other songs, and instead as on their last album, where the fast parts constantly relied on Horghs double bass playing, on “Northern Chaos Gods” we once again get to hear Immortal use blast beats! Yes, this is, at least in part, a return to the Immortal of older times. Lovely!
Of course, the album still carries the epic feel of the more recent Immortal albums for most of the time, but that’s ok, an element of the grandiose has been a part of Immortals sound throughout their entire career, but when the epic is mixed up with some hard and fast riffing and drumming, it will of course be twice as good!
I had a certain amount of concern regarding the vocals on the new album, Abbath belongs to one of my absolute favorite singers when it comes to Black Metal, but I’m really impressed by Demonaz vocals on “Northern Chaos Gods”. His singing style is quite near the style of Abbath although a little less croaking but Demonaz never the less sound as harsh and “evil” and he is really well articulated. The fact that Demonaz phrasing does remind you quite a bit of Quorthon, at a time when Bathory still was the best Black Metal band in the world hardly makes it worse!
The album is, as usual, recorded in Peter Tätgrens “Abyss Studio” and although I’m not a super fan of his often very clinical productions, the cold sound does fit Immortals frosty compositions perfectly, and “The Abyss sound” has become such a natural part of Immortals appearance that one finds it hard to imagine an Immortal record without this barren soundscape. In addition to sitting in the producer’s chair, Peter also handles the bass guitar on the album.
To sum it up I find “Northern Chaos Gods” to be a really positive surprise and a very worthy comeback, and my guess is that, although in contradiction to Immortals favorite season of the year, that this will be the sound track to mine and many others summer this year! Because what might be better than, on a torrid summer day, take shelter in the car, put on the powerful ending song “Mighty Ravendark” at full volume and let the icy black holocaustwinds of Blashy… ehh… the air conditioner cool you down!
Title: Northern Chaos Gods
Label: Nuclear Blast
Date of release: 6/7-18
Playing time: 42.14
Stand out track: Mighty Ravendark