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Perhaps my standards are too high. Perhaps I’m just a person who despite my youth and poor music taste yearns for something that, well, wasn’t released in 2009. Unfortunately to my great distress Immortal of all bands has brought my musical grouchiness to the fore recently. I love Immortal’s music. Whether it’s the amazing epics of “Sons of Northern Darkness” or the thunderous blizzard that is “Battles in the North”, Immortal have never really made a bad album. Unless you count “Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticism” which deserves negative points for butchering “Unholy Forces of Evil” and “Cold Winds of Funeral Frost” (all the cool people call it “Frost” not “Dust”, because the EP version is BETTER THAN THE ALBUM VERSION). Perhaps then it is entirely possible that I would have high expectations for Abbath and his cohort of spiked merry men and their new album. “Between Two Worlds” certainly proved Abbath still had an excellent talent in writing and performing music. However, that would be a lie. I approached this album with no expectations (due to the aforementioned cynicism) and still came away disappointed.
Why? Why oh why Abbath have thee bored me, because bored I most certainly am when listening to this album. Immortal have always been very Bathory influenced, yet “All Shall Fall” suffers from the problem of just trying to jam too much Bathory down our throats. “What?!??” you say, “Too much Bathory? Impossible!” I might be inclined to agree with you, if it were not that “All Shall Fall” sounds like a cross between “Requiem” and the general Bathory worship of later Immortal. While I love “Requiem” and consider it one of Quothorn’s more underrated albums, the mixture just doesn’t work. Abbath sounds like he wants to make our swords rise with a “Battle Hymn” inspired, bravado filled Immortal epic yet at the same time work around Destruction’s policy of thrashing ‘til death. Ultimately it doesn’t work. The slow and fast sections are just too much of a contrast, they sound like Sons of Northern Darkness decided to have sex with Godzilla: it comes of as out of place and sometimes plain bizarre.
That said, despite my negativity not all is bad. Abbath’s vocals are in prime form and it honestly seems like they’re actually getting better with every passing year. Horgh’s drumming is as competent as ever and Apollyn… Okay, he doesn’t really do much, but hey, at least he’s not doing anything specifically bad. The musicianship as a whole is excellent, yet let down by the song writing and production. The guitars sound excellent; they have a somewhat raw, biting tone to them that can carry both the thrash inspired sections and the slower, ice filled sections of post-“Blizzard Beasts” compositions. Where the production (and mix, I should say) starts to fall apart is the drums. The drums are just too “thudding” and loud. It seems as if the sole element is for Nuclear Blast to be able to say in its advertising campaigns “Immortal has blast beats buy buy buy!” The really unfortunate thing is the mixer has taken an already too powerful drum sound and put it up in the mix. The vocals and bass are often drowned by the guitar and drum combination as a result. It’s all very unsatisfying really, and it makes one even less inclined to pay attention than they might already be.
Unfortunately at the end of the day I’d rather listen to “Battles in the North”, which strikes me as somewhat unfortunate. I didn’t even get New Album Psychosis, whereby a newly listened album is given repeated plays over and over and over. “All Shall Fall” doesn’t make me feel like listening to it again. I struggled to get through the album in the first sitting and I already felt like listening to Bathory after the first song. In fact, that’s an excellent idea: don’t listen to Metal Hammer’s claims that this is set for best album of the year (that either tells you something of a shift in focus of the “metal mainstream” towards “black” metal or something about the quality of the album) because it’s not, just go get some Bathory and listen to it. All day and night if you have to, as long as you’re listening to Bathory. Abbath and Immortal are better than this album, and “Nordland II” is better than both.