A Triumphant Return: ImmortalNorthern Chaos Gods

2023
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For nine years fans of the legendary black metal band Immortal have been waiting for a new album to drop. Expectations for many were understandably crushed when the band entered into a long legal battle with former frontman Abbath, who then split from the band to form his own solo project, triggering further drama.

The nine-year wait heralds the return of Demonaz as guitarist, which is surprising since he previously retired from the instrument due to severe tendinitis (on that note, if you’re a musician PLEASE look into Alexander Technique or body mapping. The amount of people who find themselves no longer able to play due to injury is absolutely staggering. I even have some moderate tendon issues from only four semesters of class piano where no one corrected harmful habits of mine.); he continues to be the band’s lyricist and he’s now taken up the mantle of vocals as well, with harsh, raspy croaks that sound worlds apart from the smoother, roughened melodic singing seen on his solo project.

As Demonaz is writing the guitar lines again, longtime listeners of the group will notice that things are sounding a lot more like the first four records, before Abbath took over the guitar work due to Demonaz’s injury. No surprise there. You can hear the more old school, thrashy aggression in the opening title track, and single for the album “Northern Chaos Gods.” The production quality is definitely much better than the earlier albums, which I’m sure will have some purists decrying this as overproduced pop garbage, but I appreciate being able to hear the intricacies of the musical lines a little more easily.

“Gates to Blashyrkh” continues the band’s long-established mythos with a galloping pace, broken up every now and then with undistorted arpeggios. Horgh is keeping the percussion parts interesting, driving the song forward without simply resorting to blast beats and rolling bass drum.

“Where Mountains Rise” hits a soft spot for me, as I always loved the Immortal songs with cheesier, epic themes the most. The songs following from this track continue that epic feel, but combine a small bit of the aggressive thrash stylings from the earlier half of the album.

“Mighty Ravendark” is a phenomenal album closer, seamlessly moving from galloping aggression, epic atmospheric sections, and skillfully combining the different feelings from the whole album toward the end. If the only thing we had gotten from the band was a single containing “Northern Chaos Gods” and “Mighty Ravendark,” I’d still be celebrating a triumphant return. As it is, what we’ve ended up getting is a great new album showcasing all of the band’s different directions, and one that has stayed much fresher after multiple listenings than Abbath’s solo record. Definitely pick this one up.

Northern Chaos Gods is out July 6 through Nuclear Blast Records.

 

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