Immortal – “Northern Chaos Gods” (Nuclear Blast)
And lo, the gods heard the woes of the people and returned the sons of northern darkness unto them!!!! As if hell could’ve actually frozen over, it’s been almost a decade since we’ve heard from these blasphemers from Bergen. After spending 4 years working on a new album, following the split with Abbath, who took all the existing material with him (!), a new album had to be forged virtually from scratch by drummer Horgh and Demonaz, who assumed vocal and guitar duties, with producer Peter Tägtgren lending his skills on bass. Don’t ask about Apollyon! Yet despite the drama, for oldsters like me, it’s hardly a setback given Demonaz was Immortal’s original guitarist who played on their first 4 albums and since then has been the band’s manager while constantly being their key lyricist – I mean, what better substitute could you ask for!?!? As such, “Northern Chaos Gods” is just that, taking us right back to those early days of grimness with songs from the very gates of Blashyrkh — the band’s realm of all darkness and cold! From icy raw guitars to blizzard blast beats and pure black screamo, the 8 songs resonate epic darkness, but equally show refinement through varying tempos, masterful hooks and even ambience in creating the massive atmospheres that form the first step in this new (old?) line up reclaiming its past. From the slashing sword riffage of ‘The Gates Of Blashyrkh’ complemented superbly by Horgh’s precision and undisputed power, you can feel the epic glory return from these crowned princes of darkness as their dark majesty continues on ‘Grim And Dark’ with its extreme tempo changes both shocking but more intelligently really allowing the massive soundscape to really soak into your skin. You can feel the undoubted energy these guys have put into this album.! Bringing back the speed on ‘Called To Ice’, Demonaz’s horrific rasps shudder your ears as his searing guitar slashes you once more – undoubtedly revelling in your own blood spray given his masterful strokes on an awesomely decadent groove. Even on lighter (?) tracks like ‘Where Mountains Rise’ the metallic soundscape and harsh vocals remain but with more chiming melodies and a strong nordic tone evoking something more epic, the overall feeling is one of light rather than gloom. Closing with the 10 minute ‘Mighty Ravendark’, the impression is one of patience in executing to perfection on this blended heavy / black metal epic, resplendent with metallic grimness, but equally plenty of warrior passion befitting the band’s demon and battle filled realm. Immortal have returned, and by the gods, have delivered a masterpiece.