The Immortal horde has lost his general and co-founder Abbath in 2015, leaving the black metal world in awe and the Norwegian’s minions orphans of one of the most iconic duos in the genre’s history. Abbath now does his own thing with his solo career and Demonaz (guitars, now also vocals) and Horgh (drums) had to clean up the mess and maintain the absurd legacy that Immortal have attained at the same time, which is no easy feat.
But as the coffee is blacker and the genes in Norway have all sorts of metal inside, the duo rolled up their sleeves and delivered a huge “fuck you” to all those who once said that Abbath was the only thinking-head of the outfit with Immortal’s ninth full-length, ‘Northern Chaos Gods’.
The title track opens the album and is proof that the essence of what made the name Immortal legendary remains pretty alive, as Demonaz takes the helm and provides visceral guitar-work and potent vocals, which we’ve already seen that he’s capable of in his solo work ‘March of the Norse’ (2011). As a matter of fact, there are many elements of his solo album in the newly born Immortal, like the more traditional shredding and the heavy use of atmospheric sounds.
“Gates to Blashyrkh” and “Where Mountains Rise” make good use of the atmospheric aura, as the songs shift masterfully from ethereal to aggressive and vice-versa; these two are also great examples of Demonaz’s mature songwriting and Horgh’s versatility. Faster than lightning moments are also plenty here, with “Into Battle Ride” and “Called to Ice” being the most cataclysmic and devastating of them; both will sweep away the most purist Immortal fans and make them bow to the new era; fast, brutal and evil, “Into Battle Ride” is the better one here, and one of the best in the album overall.
“But wait. Bruno, dude, what the fuck? There’re only two members in Immortal now? Where’s the bass? GOD, DON’T TELL ME IT’S PROGRAMMED?” Chill out, goddammit. While there are only two northern chaos gods now, I’m happy to tell you that the bass lines are real, and they’re provided by none other than Peter Tägtgren, Hypocrisy and Pain’s mastermind. They’re almost non-existent, true (I blame the production or the mixing – or both), but they’re there; they’re buried in twelve layers of blastbeats, riffs and every other sound effect possible, but they’re there.
And because it’s not a black metal album without some dark lyrics and screaming, “Grim and Dark” and “Blacker of Worlds” are here. The first one features a killer guitar lead and some nasty turns, while the second flirts more with repetitiveness and constancy. “Mighty Ravendark” closer and longest track here, is an amalgam of everything displayed so far in the effort. Almost hitting the 10-minute mark, the song tends to get a little overwhelming at first, but picks up the pace and ends the album on a high note.
‘Northern Chaos Gods’ has quality, is easily re-playable and can be placed alongside your shelf alongside every other Immortal album without staining your collection in any way. Obviously, it can’t touch masterpieces like ‘Pure Holocaust’ or ‘At the Heart of Winter’, but is definitely an answer to Abbath’s self-titled endeavor – maybe better. To those who were afraid of what was to become of the princes of Norwegian black metal, you can all rest now, because this is more than enough proof that Immortal can bleed, but will never die.