Northern Chaos Gods by Immortal
Alas, the frostbitten blizzard demons have risen from the ice-encapsulated tundras of Hell, it seems. After a long hiatus, a departure from their lead singer and songwriter, and many odds stacked against them; Immortal prove to be just that…. Immortal. Their first album in about a decade has been unleashed upon the mere mortal ears of us all, and it just so happens to be their best one in perhaps two decades, if not the best black metal release in the last decade, period.
Setting the bar pretty high with that intro, let me do my best to try explain and decode this unholy war cry crafted by the devils of winter themselves. First, if I may, a brief recapping of the events in camp Immortal: Abbath, the legendary figurehead of Immortal, is, for one reason or another, no more. His left hand, Demonaz, 6 string battle axe angel slayer, is left to pick up the pieces. Taking the reigns of this rabid pack of winter beasts known only as Immortal. Abbath has since released two solo records that were actually pretty cool, no winter pun intended this time. Demonaz, on the other hand, had released a couple of relatively dull solo records; in my opinion. The last Immortal releases before this one, entitled All Shall Fall, in 2009, was more or less fair. Far from exceptional but far from terrible, either. Naturally, this led many (myself included) to skepticism upon hearing of Northern Chaos Gods, the first Immortal album without Abbath, and Demonaz returning. As if I didn’t already make this clear, my skepticism was pretty much shattered upon hearing the first 20 seconds of the record. Despite Demonaz’s not so impressive and generic solo efforts, this blows everything Abbath has done as a solo artist through the Norwegian forests into the ever black obscurity of nothingness. What I’m trying to say is, yes. Northern Chaos Gods IS that good, despite all of the bands turmoil and skepticism being attached to it.
The title track opener and lead single leaves nothing to imagination with a fast and furious, absolutely ripping couple of minutes of destruction. Compiled with mighty drum patterns and thrashing, galloping, guitar work that speaks for itself in case you were wondering if Demonaz still has it what it takes. It’s easy to see why they chose to release this as the single. The signature Immortal sound is here and back in full force, rest assured. Demonaz beyond establishes his reign as legendary black metal guitarist that he is. In a genre the can be confined and jaded, he manages to throw in very intriguing and catchy riffs, chord progressions, and vocal patterns on top of that. Just because there’s no Abbath, the vocals on this track and entire record do not fall short for a second. In fact, you can argue, they are even more powerful. This is a simple and sinister, very punk rock sort of black metal tune, spiced up enough to let you know what the rest of the record has to offer. And Into Battle We Ride….
And battle it is. The follow up track is even faster and more extreme than the opening single, which is, as they say, a power move. By this point it is extremely easy to tell that Immortal is back with a vengeance.. as fuck. Also, by this point I’m starting to notice the drums standing out more than anything. They are the driving force of the band and sound absolutely perfect. Laid down on top is more of their signature catchy and evil black metal vocal patterns and ripping guitar.. if you don’t like this, you don’t like black metal. Even if you don’t like black metal, please give this a try. It is great enough to expand your musical horizons. This track especially is just a heavy beast of a motherfucker with a hint of grindcore-esque-ness(?). Just get ready for the next one.
To contrast things, Gates to Blashyrkh is a groovy and heavy sick beast of a tune. In this song we get the first taste of the atmospheric black metal with a slow and menacing guitar melody.. its very cold and dark as one would expect, almost beautiful. But, not to worry, it is completely destroyed by heavy double bass and screeching growls, thrusting itself into familiar Immortal territory continuing with a devilish groove. Not to mention, this song has undoubtedly the best breakdown in a black metal song since the iconic Tyrants from Sons of Northern Darkness. If not better. Its seriously sick. Like all of the sickness.
As if things weren’t grim and dark enough, the song Grim and Dark solidifies that. I’ll just leave this one here because you pretty much can get the gist I would hope. Yeah, nothing to smile about here.. just a classic “Pure Holocaust” vibe like a thunderstorm in complete blackness. Called To Ice is not much different and hardly does things in the way of contrasting or is hardly new at this point, but its cool. Pun intended, this time. These back to back thrash heavy hitters make for great gym tunes, if nothing else. But hey, its a pure black metal record, what do you expect? They could’ve committed the atrocity of injecting some hipster black metalness into this record to try and reinvent themselves or make a “smart” black metal record; but they didn’t. And that’s awesome. If simplicity done to perfection is elegance, then this is just the evil version of that. This is Immortal they way they should be.
As we approach the epic finale, Immortal first makes us take a little journey unto Where Mountains Rise. A little more tuned down and atmospheric than most, this tune is a nice departure in tempo (slightly), providing a nice transition to the final two tracks. But, just said mountain, this song rises to an epic and thrashing black metal finale. Alas, that was apparently that was just a warm up for the entire next song, Blacker of Worlds. Fittingly titled because it is among the most menacing and evil sounding on the record. As I said before, while they aren’t reinventing the wheel (or pentagram), there is enough musicianship and experimentation displayed on this record to render it impressive and interesting. And thank God (or whomever) that they didn’t try to venture from their frostbitten path. This is a pure, evil, vengeful, freezing and dark, black metal record. For sure. And they close it with one of the best songs written in their entire career, Mighty Ravendark, a 9 minute epic that is worth the journey through Hell to get to. Its harder for me to give Immortal much more credit for this record, but this song does it. I would even call it beautiful if that wasn’t so lame and against the rules of black metal… so I’ll just say if you don’t check it out, then you might as well go take a Zumba class and leave this website. Love ya’ll.
Rock Rating: 4.5/5
Gym Rating: 5/5
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