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Demonaz - March of the norse - 80%

Radagast, September 1st, 2012

Ever since injury forced his untimely retirement from playing guitar, Demonaz has never been really been too far away from music, but it’s fair to say he’s kept a fairly low profile. Continuing the lyric writing and often the day-to-day running of Immortal, it was also nice to see him involved with Abbath’s I project a few years back, and this belated solo outing could in many ways be seen as a spiritual successor to the cracking ‘Between two worlds’ CD.

How a guitarist unable to play guitar ought to proceed is an interesting conundrum, but the solution is a fairly simple one – after making a career as a lyricist, he is finally singing his own words. Much of the I-Team has been roped in again, Armagedda happy to keep working behind the kit and Ice Dale this time handling all guitars and bass (Abbath presumably too busy elsewhere and ousted Gorgoroth traitor King thankfully nowhere in sight), so it is of little surprise that ‘March of the norse’ feels very much like a companion piece to the other project.

After well over a decade out of the frontline, it might have been a worry for some that Demonaz would try and spread his wings a little and venture into new territory, but thankfully he has stuck to the old ‘write what you know’ axiom. Indeed, strip away the ballsier traditional metal elements to ‘Between two worlds’ and further ramp up the good old Bathory influences and you’d probably find yourself with a CD not too far removed from this one. The sweeping, frigid grandiosity of songs like “Mountains” and “Far beyond the quiet” are taken to the full here, and all 7 full songs tread similar icy paths.

Containing elements of black, viking and traditional metal, but not enough of any to be fully pegged as such, it is a CD that will no doubt turn off some purists from any of those movements, but captivate those who appreciate a bit of fluidity between genre boundaries. While it isn’t exactly one-note stuff, it would be fair to say that most of the songs are based around a similar formula. Steadfastly marching riffs inexorably drive things along a frozen trail, while echoic choirs and scything melodic guitar segments convey a desolate atmosphere. The short running time of 40 minutes (counting the worthwhile instrumental bonus track) is a good fit for this approach, and prevents the CD from wearing out its welcome.

The main man’s ability as a vocalist is probably the aspect the sound most likely to be under the microscope, and while its easy to see why Abbath ended up with the singing duties back in Immortal’s formative years, Demonaz does well with what he has. His voice is similar to his black brother’s famed bullfrog croak, though more limited and far less fierce. Indeed, much of the verses aren’t a great deal more than him speaking in an affected growl, but he is mixed well enough in with the musical backdrops that in the end his voice feels like a fine fit. The choirs and harmonizing melodic guitar lines are well used to augment the lead vocals in key places, and to his credit he even manages what almost passes for some melodic singing on the mighty chorus to “A son of the sword”.

If there is any justifiable complaint to be made, it could be argued that the music here may sound a little over familiar following on from both I’s debut and Immortal bustling fully back to chaotic life in recent years. But form another point of view, you can’t get too much of a good thing, and from that perspective “March of the norse” is another welcome addition to the Doom Occulta stable.

(Originally written for http://www.metalcdratings.com/)