The UK is in the middle of a heatwave. The news is full of sweltering red faced folks and my social media feed is full of red shouldered metallers at Graspop or Hellfest. SO of course now is the ripe time for original Blizzard Beasts Immortal to chill us all out with their first album since the divorce.
Breaking up is hard to do. Especially when your frontman is as iconic as Abbath Doom Occulta. Having released a solo album which I thought was merely OK then covering himself in anti glory on subsequent tours I have been looking forward to Horgh and Demonaz doing the black metal equivalent of getting a boob job and a sports car and strutting about showing badger face what he was missing.
Demonaz showed the world that he is not just a mean lyricist and riff writer on “March of the Norse“ in 2011 and it seems that he is more than capable of taking the reins of the wintry steed. It is nine long years since “All Shall Fall” which saw Immortal layering even more epic prog power pomp across the frozen lands of Blashyrkh . Some of that is still evident here and one look at the track listing shows evidence that Demonaz continues to tread the same icy trails (though there does seem to be some plagiarised nuances from past releases – but hey can you nick from yourself?).
Opening with the title track this is a fantastic shock to the system. Full pelt Black Metal assault. Horgh is blasting away whilst Demonaz must be on a fuck tonne of painkillers to cope with these riffs. This sounds like a band that have been chomping at the bit to unleash whilst wranglings occurred over names and rights. This is a slice of Blizzards Beast the album where Demonaz last plucked the strings. Peter Tatgren has produced the album as only good mates can – combining a warm rich sound with stark clarity and bombast. “Into Battle Ride” continues the tempo offering opportunities to headbang and squeeze oranges rather than crab walk. Immortal have always proclaimed their love of Bathory and there is a distinct whiff of Black Mark era Quorthon here.
“Gates to Blashrkh” has the epic sounds of “At the Heart….” and a punchy as fuck riff that has more beef than a Ginsters pasty. Almost hardcore in its urgency. Each note hit home – no buzzsaw wasp in a jar malarkey here. “Grim and Dark” may sound like a parody in its moniker but it is a galloping riot of a track with Demonaz rasping his larynx raw over a tack that segues between blasting chaos and groovy metal. The main riff is pure Immortal as is that in “Called to Ice” where the rapidity continues. Flitting between old Immortal and new as I listen to this album the biggest contrast is the vocals. The difference between Abbath’s more cyber sounding vocal and Demonaz more throaty rasp may not be discernible to a casual listener but to anyone who has listened to the Bergen Boys for a while the two are definitely different. Neither are better. I suppose it is down to personal preference. The frantic pace of the songs on Northern Chaos Gods certainly suits Demonaz throat.
“Where Mountains Rise” could drop right into At the Heart or Sons of Northern Darkness but, where there were once proggy drops to build atmosphere, here Horgh throws in a paradiddle and we are off again. “Blacker of Worlds” should have been a short sharp shaft of steel but it loses its way a little feeling a little unfinished. Looking again at the track listing it is true that they could have been generated by an Immortal song name generator – ending with a nine minute “Mighty Ravendark” is the darkened frosting on that particular cake. Would I want it any other way? Course I bloody wouldn’t. Like Kiss and Priest before them Immortal give the folk what we want, what we need! What we needed to cap this comeback was a bouncy, fists in the air metal anthem that allows for the first real slow passages and subsequent epic cries that permeate the darkness. Towers, shadows, frost that is what I want and it’s what they have given us.
Northern Chaos Gods shows that a break up and a shake up can lead to a wonderful new beginning. I look forward to some live shows (please please). All Hail the frozen North!
(9/10 Matt Mason)