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So here we are, 7 years after the mighty Sons Of Northern Darkness. Press releases had said that Abbath and company wanted to go back to where they left off with Blizzard Beasts. I had some hope for a record of that caliber (or better as I'm not that big a fan of Blizzard Beasts), as Damned In Black was Immortal's only real misstep in my opinion. That album wasn't horrible so much as it was uninteresting. I never figured they'd approach that nadir again, especially after the great Sons Of Northern Darkness album and I’s Between Two Worlds album. Both were fantastic, so I had high hopes for this record. In fact, this was my most anticipated release for 2009. Unfortunately for me, this has proved to be a let-down.
In typical post-Blizzard Beasts fashion, there are no true blazers on this record. Like its predecessor, it only gets slightly above mid-paced with its faster songs like All Shall Fall and The Rise Of Darkness. That's not really much of a problem with this record as it has worked well for Immortal on 2 out of their last 3 albums and it also worked well with Between Two Worlds. The problem is, a good chunk of the songs are filled with some interesting and cool moments but also with a lot of bland and uninteresting ones. The opening track, All Shall Fall, is actually a pretty good song, but it's also a song that you'd expect to find somewhere in the middle of a really good album, not as an opener. It doesn't exactly grab you by the throat and pummel you like One By One, Withstand The Fall Of Time or The Storm I Ride did on their respective albums. In fact, while it's good, it left me weary of what was to follow as I was hoping for a much stronger opening song, not a mid-paced jog through the snow. The Rise Of Darkness follows and is a decent song, with a beefy, grooving riff that makes one think a little bit of One By One or In My Kingdom Cold, but can't stand toe-to-toe with either of those monsters. I wasn't wild about it at first but it has grown on me a bit.
In between The Rise Of Darkness and the sixth track, Mount North, is a whole lot of icy filler. These filler tunes (Norden On Fire, Hordes To War and Arctic Swarm) do have their moments, but filler's filler in my opinion. Mount North is an epic, majestic, frost-bitten track as is its follower and closing track, Unearthly Kingdom. While these are pretty good songs, don't expect the epicness or majesty of past songs like Beyond The North Waves or Mountains Of Might. They are nowhere near that caliber. I think you could completely re-arrange the track listing here and the album would neither suffer nor benefit from doing so.
I know people get irritated when someone reviewing an album is instantly comparing it to past works of the band and even side projects of the main members but in this case, it's hard not to. Even as a stand-alone album, All Shall Fall is extremely underwhelming after such a long wait. This does not feel at all like it was worth waiting 7 years for. But it's not all bad. The cover art is Immortal's best and most serious yet, the atmosphere of the album is cold and monstrous and the production is fantastic—the album sounds great. The problem is that the songs just aren't there. As it is, All Shall Fall is a bit of a snoozer—a Sunday drive on a snowy road even.
If you were expecting Sons Of Northern Darkness Part II, you will not find it here (in my opinion we saw that on Between Two Worlds). If you were expecting a continuation of Blizzard Beasts as the press releases would like you to have expected, you definitely won't find it here, but you will definitely find an Immortal album. If you were simply expecting a good record...well, that's all subjective so maybe you will find it here. As for me, I was expecting a good record--not Sons Of Northern Darkness Part II, not a Blizzard Beasts continuation, just a good record. Well, I didn't really get it. If you're closely monitoring your bank account, look for this in a few weeks when used copies start populating Amazon.com and eBay, or your local record store if you're still fortunate enough to have one that's worth a shit. Buyer beware, this thing isn't anything to go berserk over. In fact, it ranks just above Damned In Black and I don't see it going much higher than that. Maybe next time.