Immortal - Sons of Northern Darkness (Nuclear Blast) 2002
1. One by One (5:00)
2. Sons of Northern Darkness (3:05)
3. Tyrants (6:18)
4. Demonium (3:57)
5. Within the Dark Mind (7:31)
6. In My Kingdom Cold (4:46)
7. Antarctica (7:13)
8. Beyond the North Waves (8:07)
Far and few between are the black metal albums that hold my interest. To be quite frank, other than a handful of releases, I find much of it to be boring, schlocky and just tiresome to listen to. Most black metal seems to be as much about the ideology and attitude as it about the music itself. That certainly does not seem to be the case with "Sons of Northern Darkness" and as such it is one of those few albums that peaked my interest and held my attention for the entire album.
"Sons of Northern Darkness" is the seventh studio album from black metal band Immortal and their first for Nuclear Blast Records. The sound is a blend of Norwegian black metal and a heaping-helping of blackened thrash metal. Everything is in place from the blazing blast beats to the chaotic riffs to the troll-like shrieks of Abbath. What sets this album apart from the pack is the songwriting and the production quality. The recording quality is remarkably good, with every instrument cutting through yet still retaining that pitchy, shriek-y black metal sound. Thankfully the songs and melodies are not built around schlocky keyboards. Instead the guitars, drums and bass drive the songs, as good metal should be. The album is packed full of thick, grinding riffs that are offset by the interplay subtle melodies within each song. It's that interplay within the songwriting, along with the stellar production that makes "Son of Northern Darkness" transcend the norm for black metal.
Immortal - All Shall Fall (Nuclear Blast) 2009
1. All Shall Fall (5:58)
2. The Rise Of Darkness (5:48)
3. Hordes To War (4:33)
4. Norden On Fire (6:16)
5. Arctic Swarm (4:02)
6. Mount North (5:08)
7. Unearthly Kingdom (8:31)
I'll just be right up front and admit that I've never been a huge fan of black metal. My interest in the style was pure curiosity in the past and pretty much remained that way through the years. I would check out bands on the suggestion of friends but mostly found the music humorous, sometimes amusing and really nothing more. I just rarely found anything in the music that would call me back for repeated listens. Immortal are one of those band's I have curiously followed through the years yet never really dug deeply into their music. Their promo photography has become so over-the-top in the past that I couldn't help but laugh. Their look is a cross between Kiss, King Diamond, a racoon and some sort of armored warrior. Regardless, I have to respect them for sticking with their image and delivering album after album of grim black metal to back it up. It's safe to assume that they either don't care about the critics and those that poke fun at them, or they really don't take themselves all that seriously and are laughing right along.
"All Shall Fall" is the band's first album after a seven-year hiatus. I would describe the band's sound as cold, metallic, controlled chaos, slightly melodic and a bit monotonous. On my first couple listens I was actually having a hard time distinguishing one song from the next. The sound overall comes across as a bit same-y and the songs tended to run together without much distinction. This has long been my trouble with most black metal. It lacks much in the way of memorable songwriting/hooks and is mostly about aggression, speed and image, usually accompanied by poor, high end production. The production on "All Shall Fall" is more than adequate. As well, with repeated listens, the subtleties of the songwriting began to appear and the deft melodies and varied tempos brought out some dynamics in the songs. Of course, it wouldn't be black metal without the blistering speed. The opening title track should prove that Immortal still have the speed along with the subtle melodies they have interwoven. Other tracks boast more dramatic and epic sensibilities, and even explore more somber and melancholy emotions as well. As usual for black metal, and Immortal's Abbath is no different, the vocals sound like a demented muppet. The shrill vox become part of the musical landscape and never really offer much in the way of memorable hooks, but then I suppose that isn't really the point either. Immortal aren't going to be writing any fist-pumping, feel-good, sing-along, heavy metal anthems any time soon.
At this point, I cannot compare "All Shall Fall" to the band's past catalog, since I am fairly unfamiliar with it. After living with this album for some time, I still cannot say that I Immortal have won me over and made me a black metal fanatic. However, I did found myself enjoying this album quite a bit, and certainly more-so than a lot of other black metal albums I have heard. Take that for what it's worth. (thanks Jeremy)