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Immortal's "Battles in the North" is for some reason a highly lauded album by Immortal fans. It shouldn't be, because there are several things obviously wrong with it. First and foremost, this is one of Pytten's worst mixes. A lot of the black metal Norwegians that have worked with him have always regarded him as a highly competent audio engineer, so maybe it is Immortal's fault that this sounds the way it does, as they are listed as the producers. Either way, this mix has absolutely no clarity at all save for the snare drum and vocals. The actual playing of the drums is also pretty bad as well, this being Abbath's second attempt at filling in since apparently Immortal had no drummer at the time. This is a much worse performance than found on "Pure Holocaust." His timing is all over the place and the fills are shaky, which is a stark contrast to the much more polished and well performed drum sounds Immortal would have on later albums.
The timing issues carry on to Demonaz's guitar playing, which already sounds awful tone wise. The interplay between the guitars and drums sounds as if they are trying to find the beat the whole time, fighting to stay somewhat together. And I don't just blame Abbath, Demonaz's timing is clearly suspect as well whenever there is a guitar passage just by itself. The songs sound as if they were written by musicians who weren't yet quite good enough to execute them in the way they were written to be, which is kind of inexcusable by the time your band is working on its third full length. Naturally, the bass is reduced to a low rumble with next-to-no-clarity to be found.
The incompetence carries over to the credits in the CD. Obviously, Immortal's image has always been very important to them, so things like how the artwork and lyrics are presented have got to hold some bearing. Well, aside from the front cover, the same three pics on the inside of the book are all repeated. There are numerous typos throughout, and not the kind of "English as a second language" sort of typos, just the obvious "thrown together in 3 minutes, who cares if it's proofread" typos. There is even a line that says "Demonaz plays 'Pearl' drums exclusively" which is perhaps another explanation as to the awful timing, or just another goofy typo. Most famously and perhaps most ridiculous of all, the track listing in the book doesn't match the sequence on the CD! This album has been released for going on 14-15 years, and none of the subsequent pressings or re-issues have ever fixed this!
Positive reviews of this album always seem to try to cover for the wretched mix and bad playing by saying something like "the cold production makes it really sound like they are playing in a blizzard! It's soooo grim!!!" But that doesn't even begin to describe the endurance contest of incompetence that this CD subjects the listener to. Thankfully, Immortal would go on to make better albums, but this one is simply a dud. One star out of five.