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Immortal - Northern Chaos Gods - cd -

Price per Unit (stuk): €19.95


It doesn’t seem like all that long ago that a new album from Norwegian black metal veterans IMMORTAL was a distant thought. A legal battle erupted over the band’s trademark between frontman Abbath and Demonaz (original guitarist, then-lyricist and manager) and Hough, which eventually led to the departure of Abbath. This transpired in 2014-2015, already over half a decade after the release of their last offering, 2009’s All Shall Fall. After several years of silence following his departure, in which time Abbath himself released a solo album, IMMORTAL have finally returned to the black metal spotlight with Northern Chaos Gods.

 

It’s always hard to review, analyse and dissect an album without giving thought to the rest of the band’s discography, and the context of the situations surrounding the release. This is especially true of Northern Chaos Gods. For one, IMMORTAL is a band that has always been synonymous with Abbath – the frontman is one of the most recognisable men in extreme metal. Northern Chaos Gods is the first full-length album since IMMORTAL‘s inception that he has not been a part of, and begs the question of whether the band can survive without the Abbath brand at the help (spoiler: the answer is yes.).

Secondly, this is the first album from the band in almost a decade. They are one of the biggest names in modern black metal, and it is important to ascertain whether Northern Chaos Gods is a worthy return for the Norwegian black metal legends (spoiler: the answer to this one is also yes.). Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, this record marks the return of Demonaz. The founding member has been absent from the recording booth and the stage for over twenty years as a result of tendonitis, leaving him unable to play guitar at the speed required for a black metal band. He has remained within the band as the manager and lyricist since his departure as a performing member, but Northern Chaos Gods marks the first album since Blizzard Beasts to feature Demonaz as a major contributor to the music as well as the lyrics. But do his vocals compare to Abbath’s voice on previous IMMORTAL albums, and do his riffs have the same power they used to? One more spoiler, the answer to this is once again yes. Yes. One thousand times, yes.

Opening tracks are a statement of intent for the rest of the album. And what does the title-track opener display of IMMORTAL‘s intentions for Northern Chaos Gods? Is it an epic, symphony-heavy blast of musical escapism? Does it hint at a new direction for the band? Does it ease the listener in to the record, providing a restrained approach before moving into the blast beats and frostbitten riffs we know and love? Absolutely not. The title track is a truly savage opener, displaying a fury that is totally unrestrained. Breakneck riffing, a short but blistering solo and an effective, short hook all come together in the ferocious title track to deliver a forewarning of the aural savagery to come. This is also the first taste we get of Demonaz taking up the mic for IMMORTAL, and he delivers excellence.

Typically, the following Into Battle Ride and Gates To Blashyrkh would be considered up-tempo blasts, anything that followed the title track would feel a little more mid-paced. However, the sinister, aggressive riffing and epic chorus of the former and the more stomping, blackened groove of the latter deliver a delicious slice of ice cold mayhem. Northern Chaos Gods has a bit of a slump in the middle, with Grim and Dark and Called To Ice failing to harness the same brilliance as the earlier songs, though the latter does deliver some blistering ferocity.

As Northern Chaos Gods begins to draw to a close, IMMORTAL harness atmosphere and aggression in equal parts with Where Mountains Rise. Though arguably a touch repetitive, the track harnesses some big hooks in the chorus that make it a memorable and worthy addition to the live set. The final two songs on Northern Chaos Gods both stand as competitors for the record’s finest moment. Blacker of Worlds is one of the shortest tracks on the album, delivering a burst of melancholic, grim viciousness. Where Blacker of Worlds was a punishing, short blast of sombre melodies and aggressive riffing, Mighty Ravendark is an epic. Closing Northern Chaos Gods with nearly ten minutes of excellence, Mighty Ravendark carries a glacial atmosphere, carrying forth the emotive melodies of Blacker of Worlds into a more mid-paced, hooky tundra. The raw production adds to the frostbitten sound of the track, and a stunning, if brief, A Matter of Life and Death era IRON MAIDEN-esque interlude allows for a small respite.

Northern Chaos Gods is arguably one of the most important records in IMMORTAL‘s discography. After such a long break between records, the behind-the-scenes legal issues and the loss of Abbath, a mediocre album would likely see an end to IMMORTAL‘s reign in the top-tier of extreme metal. Fortunately, their ninth record does not disappoint. With a cold, crisp production that is near-perfect, sans the lack of bass, Northern Chaos Gods is an utterly ferocious blizzard of brutality that harnesses some of the best song-writing, musicianship and lyricism in their discography. Demonaz steps up to the role of frontman seamlessly, and with the band releasing their best record since At the Heart of Winter, any of IMMORTAL‘s doubters will be left pondering “Abbath who?”

Rating: 9/10

 

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