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Alright, I'm a total Immortal fanboy, but I'll do my best to keep that from impacting what I have to say.
There seems to be a lot of misunderstanding towards this album: the most common grievances are that it lacks diversity, lacks intricacy, and isn't up to Immortal's songwriting ability. These make sense on a surface and technical level. But what these shallow listeners fail to grasp is the intent with which this album was written. It was not meant to be complex. It was not meant to be diverse. The sole purpose of this album is to create an atmosphere- Something intangible that goes beyond the depth of the average album. Something magical.
This goal is obtained at the cost of everything else, which makes for one hell of a staunch, unyielding release. As you've probably gathered by now, there isn't an abundance of technicality, there aren't a ton of moments that make you grin and say "dat rifffff." Instead we have a whole album of heartfelt, almost pantheistically-natural black metal that makes you gaze out the window in wonder. Music that makes you feel. A whole album that transports you to a realm of wonder and cold beauty.
Anyways, enough mooning. The first material I heard from this was At the Stormy Gates of mist. There was a free 30 second sample of it on some website (this is before I discovered youtube). I really wanted to like it, but couldn't understand what was going on. I was just getting into metal and the corpsepaint and winter/mystical imagery really enticed me. But the music was just too inaccessible. I couldn't isolate specific things because it wasn't formulated enough.
Upon first listen, it seemed to be the audial embodiment of a blizzard, and that's something I still hear in the album. The music is fast, harsh, cold, but never evil or hateful like so much other black metal and practically all other black metal of the time. This is one of the biggest appeals of the album. It sounds so natural. The guitarwork and drumming are top notch, but that's the last thing the listener focuses on because the atmosphere is clearly the priority. As great as they are, they only exist to serve the atmosphere of the album.
Sounds range from fast and driving in the first 2/3s of the album to strident and proud in the last three tracks. This difference while still maintaining such similarity is one of the best musical parts of the album. The melodies and feel of the last three tracks are definitely different from the first part of the album, but they don't sound out of place at all.
The production, like the instrumentation, serves to further the wintry atmosphere. The guitars are mid in the mix, the drums are pretty high, and the vocals are high. Bass is inaudible. As stereotypically 2nd wave as that may be, this album is done differently. There's almost a sense of fog obscuring some of the sound. This is partially why I'd call this album an audible blizzard.
I won't talk about any riffs specifically, because that's completely beside the point of this album. But I will bring up a few melodies, like the one in the background of the "chorus" bit of Through the Halls of Eternity. This melody is a minorly-recurrent theme throughout a few of the songs. It undergoes minor changes in the two tracks after it, and this is the factor that binds these three songs together and makes them separate but still bound to the rest of the album. Similarly, the first few songs are also similar to eachother, as are the middle songs. This makes it seem like the album has phases. It progresses through different sounds that are all related to eachother, each sound with a few specific subsounds.
Don't listen to this album casually: you won't get it. Sit down on a frosty winter's eve and let it work weave its unique spell of atmosphere.