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I'm not familiar with the bulk of Immortal's discography. None of it, save this album, in fact. But if I have the right of it (and I'm sure I do), Immortal used this album to experiment with longer, more complex song structures and more technical riffage. I suppose those are the greatest failings on this album, since Immortal were writing shorter, more simple songs, for the most part, on their four albums prior.
Many of the songs seem rather aimless, moving forward without destination. The song structure doesn't flow very well, seemingly dropping in and out of sections at random. This is painfully obvious in 'Solarfall' when it trades a blistering assault for atmospheric synths. This is not inherently bad, but Immortal do not make it work. The changes are jarring and rather annoying when they trade a quality riff for a budget one. The drums are not terribly creative, but they complement the music nicely, and have a strong presence without being overbearing. Synths are used tastefully, adding to the atmosphere without being coated in sugar.
The guitar tone is buzzy and flat, devoid of warmth, cold, or feeling. It's simply there. It's not bad, but certainly not enjoyable. The vocals are clear without overshadowing the music, but they, like the guitar tone, are simply there. Abbath's vocals have never really clicked with me. They lack power and emotion and simply don't convince me that Abbath is at the heart of winter.
The album has few enough saving graces, and while these moments are truly awesome, there are simply not enough of them to make the album likeable. I suppose what really kills this album is their faster thrash leanings. It really is a pity, because this would have been a great album; there are awesome tremolo riffs, like the one that closes 'Withstand the Fall of Time', and the riffs not firmly rooted in thrash are very enjoyable, with the title track's closing riff being a prime example, and the solo's should come with a warning that your face will melt!
This is not a terrible album. It is a mediocre one. It simply fails to deliver consistently, and suffers for it.