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Immortal stands out from most other black metal bands because they chose their own path. Instead of adopting the anti-Christian, church burning, satanic lyrics they created their own dark world. The mythical world of Blashyrkh. An icy cold and blackened reality full of demons and warfare. Steering away from politics and religion has proven to be a brilliant move. Immortal's music is just as "evil" and heavy as any black metal band but without the baggage. An undeniable Quorthon (of Bathory) influence is there in the vocals, as is a somewhat silly facepaint, leather and spike look reminiscent of non-metal band KISS, but musically they borrowed from Mayhem and perhaps Darkthrone (who preceded Immortal by only one LP). Wearing their influences on their sleeve they carved out their own sound.
That "Immortal style" morphed over time. Incidentally, they are one of very few black metal bands that has wide appeal. This has resulted in some believing Immortal became too commercial because they incorporate actual melody in their songs and add a healthy dose of thrash riffs to their blizzard sound. They have evolved from the breakneck speed of their earliest albums into a whole new era of epicness. What's amazing is that they do this without symphonic elements like Dimmu Borgir (the best selling black metal band so far).
"All Shall Fall" may be the best sounding black metal album ever. It's a wall of guitars, croaking vocals and manic drums recorded perfectly. I mean this thing is just a feast for the ears. Because of the sonic brilliance you can feel the full power of this epic music rattle your bones. It's commercial only in the sense that it was produced marvelously and they've chosen to take serious the notion of songs rather than rambling bursts. This is 'blackened thrash' if I had to label it. It's not 'black & roll' like singer/guitarist Abbath's side product named I. That band's debut LP was pretty much what Motorhead would sound like doing black metal. This is still very much a black metal album with certain elements retained. The vocals are about as deep in the mix as your beloved Emperor but never drowned out. The bass is barely audible. No, every instrument is welded together and solid as frozen steel. Speaking of Abbath he took over the guitarwork around the time of the band's lauded "At The Heart Of Winter" album, which heralded a a stylistic change for the band. Original guitarist (and still current lyricist/co-songwriter) Demonaz was sidelined with tendonitis. Demonaz was known for his manic, frantic shredding whereas Abbath prefers more midtempo riffing. Like any band that departs from a style that made them legendary many longtime fans pine for the Immortal of "Pure Holocaust" but, again, the genre has evolved.
"All Shall Fall" is best listened to from beginning to end. There's no linear storyline just tales of icy warfare between demon hordes in Blashyrkh but from the first guitar riff it's consistency is undeniable. There are melodic moments like the refrain in "Mount North" and the bridge in the title track ("allllllllll shall faaaaaaaaaaaaaaallllll") but mostly this music just hypnotizes you with midtempo tidal waves of cold guitarwork.
This was the first black metal album I purchased and it's still my favorite. Black metal has evolved. Take it or leave it.