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Pure Holocaust demonstrates how an album can be considered classic' in spite of lacking much in the way of truly great songwriting. What the album does have is energy. Immortal's performance on Pure Holocaust is one of the most intensely realized sets of music in the Norwegian Second Wave. Some may criticize them for not taking black metal's inherent darkness as seriously as others did. While the frostbitten travails of Blashyrkh are the easy subject of mockery, I think Immortal brought a sincere darkness to their sound in another way. Abbath's rancid croak and drumming; Demonaz's spitfire guitar work... Both came together on Pure Holocaust to make one of the fastest, most visceral combos in classic black metal. However brief and straightforward Immortal's approach may be, their unrelenting aggression leaves a swift impression, provided you're able to distance it from the countless bands that imitated them.
Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticism was far from perfect, but it showed Immortal as a band who lacked nothing for character. Crunchy death metal riffs and conservative acoustic layers gave the album a unique taste alongside the stark visual image they were in the midst of conjuring. In a lot of ways, Pure Holocaust is a fitting next step for Immortal to have taken following their first steps. In the year between the two records, Immortal distilled the debut's style down to a few fundamental elements. Gone were the proto-Ulver acoustic guitars, and the death metal fuzz was a thing of the past. While I actually think Immortal's early sound left more room for dynamic and standout passages, the more I listen to Pure Holocaust, the more I realize how much a streamlined black metal onslaught improved their atmosphere. If Immortal were juggling less ingredients this time around, they were juggling much, much better. Their sound was finally as fast as befit a pair of frostbitten tyrants.
With over two decades of bands trying to take after Immortal's sound now, it can be hard to see Pure Holocaust for how innovative it really was. If a black metal band was getting fast in 1993, chances were they would be throwing proper technique to the side. Pure Holocaust has a remarkably cold-sounding production, but it's not so lo-fi that you can't make out how sharp Demonaz's guitar playing really was. No tempo seems too fast for him to play, and Pure Holocaust definitely tests those limits. Not only is he a remarkable rhythm player, he's able to fuse leads into his playing style. Demonaz's standout precision is strongly contrasted with Abbath who, while not missing his mark at any point of the drum performance, doesn't sound like he earned a percussion certificate from the Julliard Blastbeat Conservatory. I've liked Abbath as a guitarist and frontman throughout his career in Immortal, but he brings an aggressive madness to the drumkit that pairs up with Demonaz perfectly. While I don't think Pure Holocaust is the best of their career, the combination of the Brothers Doom Occulta is probably the best lineup Immortal ever had.
I opened this review on a somewhat mixed note, but I don't mean to imply Immortal were any less diligent with their songwriting on Pure Holocaust. The more I've listened to the album, the more I've been able to pick up on little riffs and details that distinguish one song from the other. I'm not hearing the same highlight moments of the debut, nor are there any songs that stand shoulders above the rest. Though Pure Holocaust's shift towards a, well, purer style was a great move in terms of broad atmosphere and punchy performance, the unrelenting aggression doesn't leave much room for songs to be told apart. "The Sun No Longer Rises", "As the Eternity Opens", and "Pure Holocaust" are probably my three favourite cuts here, but that might be nit-picking. Each of the songs could be described under near-identical terms: Immortal are playing fierce, cold and fast on Pure Holocaust, and there's not so much as an ambient intro or mandatory interlude to stem the tide. In many cases, I might hold an album's half-hour length against it; with Immortal, I think they were smart to keep the album short. The music packs a fucking hell of a punch, and it's over long before the intensity has a chance to dwindle.
Pure Holocaust is a straightforward, high-intensity black metal barrage, but that doesn't mean it's easily digested. It took me several listens before I could start to tell the songs apart, and several more before I began to realize how deadly this package really is. Even as an extremely familiar formula, it takes some time to grow. The ingredients Immortal used here have been done to death by a thousand others in the time since, and that saturation works against the band's credit; most of the bands that followed them never did it so well. Fortunately, it doesn't take too long before it becomes apparent that Immortal still stand out, if not so much for the songwriting itself, then surely for the punishing way they brought their art to life.
"Pure Holocaust" contains all the things that make a black metal amazing in 33 minutes; it's raw, it's trve, it's grim, frostbitten AND fukking kvlt. Alright, joking aside this truly is, in my opinion one of the greatest black metal albums of all time, although I still can't determine whether this, "At The Heart of Winter" or "Sons of Northern Darkness" is my favourite Immortal record this is still a contender. When I was trying to get into black metal, I couldn't quite digest the raw stuff yet, it just didn't really click with me. But I did really get into modern black metal bands like Marduk, Dark Funeral, Watain, Dimmu Borgir(yeah...) amongst others, as well as blackened death metal acts like Belphegor, Behemoth, Necrophobic etc. and I really liked melodic black metal too especially Dissection. It took me quite a while to understand why people liked Darkthrone, Mayhem's early stuff(I still don't like them but I have an understanding) and the like but a friend of mine lent me his "Pure Holocaust" CD and told me I may or not like it but to at least give it a try and somehow, someway I began to understand why people liked black metal just after the first two tracks. I'm not sure why it took this album to get into 90s BM but I think it's because this is raw but not overly raw so I could digest it while still maintaining a dark atmosphere and each song caught my attention, they're just so catchy and enjoyable it was impossible for me to like this. If you're wondering why I'm telling this story it's because if someone is reading this and is the same as I was, Immortal is a great place to start, now that I've listened to their other albums "Sons of Northern Darkness" may be more accessible but this here has the dark, cold atmosphere that sends chills up your spine, something I've grown to be fond of about black metal.
That's not the only reason Immortal stuck out to me. I would say almost 90% of the time, possibly even more, when you go to a black metal bands page here on the archives the lyrical themes are "Satanism, Death, Evil, Blasphemy, Anti-Christianity" and sometimes you'll get war in there too and it's just became so cliche. Don't get me wrong, I love a lot of bands who use those themes, hell, Deicide are one of my all time favourite bands but as I said it's became so cliche and very predicable. So when you come to Immortal's page here and you see "Lyrical Themes: Grimness, Winter, War, Winterdemons, Blashyrkh" as silly as that may sound, Immortal's music features amazing, dark yet somehow beautiful lyrics. They may not be the only band to do this but compare it to what other Norwegian BM bands were writing about at this time and I think that should make you realize that Immortal weren't just another so called "satanic" black metal band. To give you some understanding here's some of my favourite lyrics from this album, taken from "The Sun no Longer Rises":
"In the mist of the twilight you could see me come
To walk the endless woods alone
The earth is freezing as I walk it becomes colder
Forever descending in a place of the moon
Where shadows move with grotesque eyes
Where demons rise
Surrounded by black and mourning moonfog
And the eyes of the dark ones
Sempiternal woods wait only for me
A path opens clearly
The sun no longer rises
Over cold and forgotten valleys
The sun no longer rises
Where I walk and where I come"
This album has amazing lyrics but not their best, their 1999 release "At the Heart of Winter" displayed Demonaz lyrical skills at its peak. The sound and instrumentation of this album isn't very chaotic but still maintains a fast pace for the most part. There's some mid paced sections too though for example "The Sun No Longer Rises" becomes mid paced around 1:00 with a very eerie riff. The verses in it remind me a lot of Bathory's "A Fine Day to Die" partially because of the riffs but mainly due to the drum beat, I haven't listened to Bathory in a while but I believe it's basically the same beat. I should add that all the instrumentation was done by Abbath(vocals, bass, drums) and Demonaz(guitar, lyrics as well) and they both did a great job although on the album cover there's 3 members, I've never looked into why though perhaps someone who's looked more into the bands history knows, I just love their music haha. Demonaz did just as good on the guitar work as he did on the lyrics. He makes good use of tremolo picked power chords of course and using a great deal of melody as well, there's also the odd thrash riff too(see: 3:10 in the title track for an example) but NOTHING compared to what the thrash influence they displayed on "Blizzard Beasts" and the albums after(At the Heart of Winter was more 'epic' though). The drum work features loads of wicked blast beats, impressive double kicks and awesome fills/rolls. Nothing very technical but I don't think that was Abbath's intentions. I can only find the bass with headphones on but even then you have to try and hear it, nothing spectacular really. Abbath's vocals aren't over the top which was one of the things I didn't like about black metal, I still don't but it doesn't bother me the point where I won't listen to band because of them. I've just always preferred vocals like Abbath's, a gravel throat rasp, plus you can actually understand the lyrics which is a bonus. Overall, I don't have one complaint about the music on this album, sure the bass isn't very audible but at least it's still somewhat there.
The reasoning as to why I believe the songwriting on this album is phenomenal can be described simply; the songs are entirely memorable, enjoyable, catchy, have replay value and most importantly no filler. It's straight forward, nothing too complex and not quite as epic as "At the Heart of Winter" but that's not a bad thing, it works in this albums favor.
I think that's enough babbling for one review, all you need to know anyway is that this is a damn great black metal record and one of Immortal's best.
Highlights; the first four tracks and the title track but as I said there's no filler, each song is phenomenal.
Immortal's second release, Pure Holocaust, is widely considered to be the absolute pinnacle of their discography, with some occasionally claiming At The Heart Of Winter to be slightly better. Upon this release they took the rugged, brash sound developed on Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticism, and amplified it tenfold, being considerably faster paced and a lot more complete than the previous release, with more memorable moments, and a lot more proficiency instrumentally. Released in 1993, the 8 songs on this album show exactly how much Immortal had grown as musicians in the space of one year, and is considered by many to be a landmark in the black metal scene. This contains grim tales of icy landscapes and winter, with morbid stories amidst a snowy desktop, this is a ride that will never be forgotten.
By ditching the introductory track found on the first album, Immortal are able to plunge headlong into the first song Unsilent Storms In The North Abyss. Following a remarkable instrumental sections containing some incredible drum fills, the listener is straight away treated to their first taste of Abbath's manic screaming. On this album, he is far more intelligible, sounding utterly demonic. Over the course of this one year, Abbath grew a considerable amount as a vocalist, with his vocals on here being some of the more recognizable, stand-out black metal vocalists, giving the perfect voice for the dark tales that unfold.
Whilst on the subject of Abbath, this album is his first as drummer of the band, despite the fact that Grim was credited for the drums and appears on the cover of the album, due to having been with the band during the tour in which the picture was taken for the album cover. Abbath's drumming on this album is nearly flawless, laying down some insanely fast blast beats, giving off one of the most intense sounds of its time. The production was a lot more friendly towards the drums this time, enabling all of Abbath's talent to seep through as each of the songs is driven forward. The drumming through the third track, The Sun No Longer Rises is probably the best found on here, with the instrumental introduction being marvelously performed. Abbath pummels away at his drums incessantly throughout this release, building upon the sound found on the previous release perfectly.
The guitar work is a lot more memorable this time, with some of the riffs being particularly noticeable. The riff during the first few lines of the previously mentioned The Sun No Longer Rises is a standout one, as well as some moments on the title track and Eternal Years On The Path To The Cemetery Gates. The ridiculously fast tremolo picked riffs are still as present and noticeable as ever, but the riffs are a lot more well thought out this time, giving this album a real sense of accomplishment, with some riffs sticking in the listeners head following listening.
Storming Through Red Clouds And Holocaustwinds contains a rather incredible solo to open it off, being frantically played, with the bass and drums thundering away at the same time, making for one of the finest moments of the album. The stop-start in The Sun No Longer Rises was actually the perfect way to give the listener a brief seconds breather before the relentless barrage of aggression continues. Frozen By Icewinds packs one of the most memorable intro riffs in all of Immortal's discography, giving it bragging rights as one of the best songs on the album. To name all of the great moments on Pure Holocaust would mean writing a novel, but they are just three that come to mind.
Pure Holocaust was one of the few Immortal albums in which the whole album was just one long masterpiece, instead of having standout tracks like later releases such as All Shall Fall. This is one thirty-three minute dose of speed, with the drums blasting away and the guitars incessantly letting loose note after note. Demonaz and Abbath created a black metal masterpiece with this release.
Immortal’s debut album Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticism ends with the stunning track “A Perfect Vision of the Rising Northland”. The song concludes with the unforgettable description of the heavens opening up and sucking the narrator into a portal leading to a bleak alternate planet. It is unclear if there is actually any thematic link between Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticism and its follow up Pure Holocaust but musically, Pure Holocaust certainly sounds like the alternate world where “the sun freezes to dust.” The depressive, woodsy black metal of the debut has been replaced by a relentless exhibition of controlled chaos. Pure Holocaust is an unyielding assault of thundering percussion and whipping tremolo, which together convey the feeling of being trapped on the tundra during an inexorable snowstorm.
Pure Holocaust is certainly a pure recording. The production is clean, but without any gloss. The instruments are sharp, crisp and perfectly audible. The music is straight forward: tremolo picking, bass, blast beats and Abbath’s reptilian growls. No frills. The acoustic guitars and keys from the debut are dropped (other than a brief cameo by the synths on “As the Eternity Opens”). The compositions are tight and focused. While the songs initially appear to be run of the mill “verse-chorus-verse-chorus” fare, subtle shifts and twists within the chord progressions make these seemingly simple compositions deceptively nuanced. The story is similar with the drums. While the drums mostly churn out steadfast blast beats that swirl about like dominating winds, a diverse array of well-timed fills provide colorful intermissions.
The driving force behind Pure Holocaust is Demonaz’s brilliant guitar work. The riffs are simply phenomenal. While all the riffs are played with the same razor sharp precision and breakneck speed, the moods they express are extremely varied. Riffs such as the lead on “The Sun No Longer Rises” depict a tragic beauty while the riffs on the title track revel in a tyrannical evil. The variation in the lead melodies allows for a ton of diversity throughout the recording while the consistent execution provides the record with excellent cohesion. The speed and focus with which the band plays gives the riffs a fluid quality, as if the compositions were meant for the string section of an orchestra. The melodies flow up and down the scales with elegance and ease.
One place where the quality of the songwriting really shines is in the way in which the guitars paint sonic images of the lyrical themes. On “Unsilent Storms in the North Abyss” the lyrics and guitars simultaneously descend into darkness. Every time the lead progression hits the darkest point, Abbath describes a “shadowed face,” a “wintercoffin” or the “dawnless realms.” Then, when the song peaks, with Abbath croaking “unslient storms in the north abyss,” the guitars open into a tortuously beautiful bridge that is so vivid that one can almost see the abyss consuming the horizon in sheer blackness. On “A Sign for the Norse Hordes to Ride” the rapid ascent and descent of the progressions sounds like horsemen riding through a rough and uneven terrain as they swiftly head toward battle. This sort of detailed, expressive interplay between the guitars and lyrics is prevalent throughout Pure Holocaust and is one of the factors that make it such a special album.
Pure Holocaust pushes black metal to toward one of its limits. It simplifies black metal down to a few basic elements—blast beats, tremolo and speed—and then bombards the listener with those elements for the entire album. Typically, these sorts of “pushing genre X to its extreme” albums have at best an enjoyable novelty but little substance. However, the quality of riffs the detail of the compositions makes Pure Holocaust a phenomenal work in itself, regardless of its envelope-pushing. The fact that this album pushed black metal in even more extreme and intense directions is just icing on the frostbitten cake. Both historically integral and intrinsically brilliant, Pure Holocaust is essential listening for all fans of black metal.
(Originally written for http://deinos-logos.blogspot.com)
Pure Holocaust is Immortal's sonic statement of purpose. Their debut album, released a year earlier, had set them apart from their black metal peers in theme and tone. Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticism proved Immortal to be the kings of all things grim and frostbitten, eschewing Satanism, paganism and nationalism in favor of epic battles in the frosty fictional kingdom of Blashyrkh. The preposterous video for that album's title track revealed a theatrical flair for the absurd, setting Immortal well apart from their somber Norwegian counterparts. It wasn't until Pure Holocaust, however, that Immortal's music stepped away from the pack. Improved production, peerless swarming riffs, concise but grandiose songwriting and a raging rhythmic assault push Pure Holocaust into the pantheon of black metal classics.
“Unsilent Storms In The North Abyss” is your stunning initiation into realm of Blashyrkh. Memorable and instantly recognizable riffs roll in an unstoppable avalanche of sound. The drumming, performed ably by Abbath himself, unfurls with a savage and precise ferocity. The warm and organic drum sound on Pure Holocaust is amongst my favorite of any metal album.
Every aspect of Immortal's game is accelerated on Pure Holocaust. Demonaz unleashes distinctive riffs with uncanny rapidity, tremolo picking at inhuman speeds. Guitars and drums appear to be locked in a race to the icy death, constantly challenging each other for dominance. The album indicates a deep desire to up the black metal ante, bringing an increased focus on speed and brutality without completely breaking the mold Quorthon had so expertly cast. The bombastic dynamics on Pure Holocaust indicate a tremendous influence from latter day Bathory albums (Blood Fire Death in particular). This is a good thing.
Abbath's voice comes into its own on Pure Holocaust, assuming the iconic grim croak we know and love. This over-the-top vocal approach lends a strange alacrity to Demonaz' frosty lyricism. We get hyperbolic tales of bestial battles, eternal winters in endless woods and demonic holocaust in realms of frost, all narrated with froggy flair. The evocative frigid imagery is an integral part of the album's brilliance; Pure Holocaust always makes me reach for the lyric sheet and always makes me smile.
Pure Holocaust is a model of infernal efficiency. There are no extended or sprawling compositions here, only compact and concise songs meant to sting your memory like shards of ice. The title track closes the album with incredible style, bestowing us with a final cache of cachinnating riffs. Bang your head, juice the oranges and dance around like a painted fool. Believe me, no one will make fun of you. I don't think anyone intended for black metal to be such joyous fun, but that's the essence of Pure Holocaust.
Originally posted here: http://www.metalinjection.net/reviews/cd-review-immortal-pure-holocaust
This is probably one of the last Immortal albums I got to know back in the days, so I always tend to think about it as something new in their discography. The reason for this is also that it is very refreshing musically. Before 1993 Immortal were already very orthodox in what they were doing, they were already well known not only because they were friends of Euro and Varg, but also because their vision of music was totally original and there were no bands like them. And with this album they reached for absolute purity of their form. I may not exaggerate when I say that Immortal together with Kampfar introduced forests and winter into Norwegian black metal and influenced the genre so that it is what it is now. There are those who worship them for it, there are those who don't. Personally - I think the nature topics, counterbalancing theistic religions by worshipping the immortal and indelible forces of nature and, in a way, pagan self-centeredness fits black metal very well and it is also one of the many reasons I praise TNBM above all other genres. Those, whose definition of True Norwegian Black Metal is a bit more wide than an average Scandinavian caveman halfwit purists', would probably agree with me. I mean, who are we or anybody else to deprive Immortal their everlasting place among the black metal legends? Cause their lyrics are not satanic or anti-christian? Well, if Abbath doesn't sing the standard 'hail Satan' stuff doesn't mean the lyrics aren't anti-religious and that he himself is a fucking christian. I prefer Immortal to many, many shitty-but-satanic bands I listened to over years. Because Immortal were and are true and orthodox in what they do, and their music, the sounds they create and record, is 100% pure Norwegian black metal sound.
This is also the case concerning 'Pure Holocaust', their epic masterpiece from the memorable anno 1993. Riffing is totally Immortal style but simply better than on their other albums, even the newer ones! They could have recorded 'Pure Holocaust' YEARS after 'Blizzard Beasts', cause this album is simply further in their evolution than 'Blizzard Beasts' and 'Battles in the North'! I have no idea why after recording stuff like 'Pure Holocaust' they returned to the raw sound from the 1990-1991 period. I am myself pretty astounded, cause I always thought they started playing a lot earlier and that 'Pure...' is like fourth or fifth album, but it is their second! It is unbelievable to think how their albums are mixed across their discography.
Atmospherically 'Pure...' places itself between the heavy or even thrashy riffing we know from 'Damned in Black', 'Heart of Winter' and 'Sons of Northern Darkness' era and the chaotic 'Blizzard Beasts' and 'Battles in the North' era. This rite the passage unfortunately didn't end with the 'Pure...' sound as their one and only path from now on, but it changed one more time to the Immortal we know now from their last recordings. The question whether the listener would like this one depends on which period in the band's history you like most. Or maybe not. Cause how can you dislike this album?
Summing up, the sound is unique and totally 'Norwegian', if you know what I mean. Songs are not complex but they are very well arranged, riffing doesn't sound like another riff-to-riff patchwork, the song are very fluent and every accord is a logical continuation of the previous one. Every song just flows freely and the album ends in no time. The sound engineer must have understood Abbath & Co. pretty well, cause this album is also the “coldest” in their discography. Guitars together with the drums form a unbreakable wall of sound that reminds a furious winter storm with wind blowing your squinted eyes into your skull and snow somehow finding its way into your underpants and freezing your balls off. If you are devoted to the TNBM sound I can assure you that you'll put this CD in your discman many times before you die in the cold claws of the winter demons Abbath summons by the means of his battle cries we are so lucky to be given the chance to listen to.
A must-have album!
Among all of the bands that were heavily influential in the height of the 2nd wave of black metal, Immortal tends to be either worshipped as those who perfected the style, or shrugged off as a band that played well enough but coasted stylistically and didn’t add anything substantial to the genre. This is particularly the case as it applies to their sophomore effort “Pure Holocaust” due to it being the best known of their works, and often the most lauded amongst their fan base. It presents itself as an image rendered in pure darkness, especially when taking into account the album cover, which presents the band as stalwart and extremely forbidding characters. But the underlying question posed is, does this album really capture the far reaching essence of this style to the point that it deserves to be called the greatest ever?
To an ear not yet accustomed to extreme music, each one of these songs could be summarized as an insane rush of darkened wind, perhaps comparable to the torrential winds enveloping the damned in the 2nd circle of Dante’s Inferno. The flurry of fuzz driven guitar chords and minimalist lead ideas put forth by Demonaz, in particular, gives most of the contents here a frigid, wind-like quality that compares pretty heavily to Euronymous’ work on “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas”, though perhaps leaning a bit more towards an atmospheric quality rather than the percussive, thrash-like quality of said album. The drum work on here mirrors the extremely technical work of that Hellhammer did with Mayhem, but with much more precision and a clearer sense of organization. In fact, one of the reasons why this album is often derided as being unoriginal is there being a lot of similarities to Mayhem.
The only place where Immortal seems to break away from the model established by their controversial cohorts is in the vocal department. Abbath’s garbled goblin speak does not really resemble Dead or Attila very much, but seem to reach back further to Quorthon’s early approach, but meshed with a greater level of rawness that makes the words slightly less intelligible. Part of this may be fed by the music surrounding the vocals being a bit more layered and deep than the proto-thrash riffs that populated most of the 1st wave of black metal, as well as the vocals not quite being as high in the mix as they tended to be on your average Sodom, Celtic Frost, or Bathory album during the early to mid 80s. It’s definitely deeper and colder sounding than the imp-like ravings of Hat on Gorgoroth’s “Pentagram”, but sounds a bit lighter and less threatening than what you’d hear out of Nocturno or Ihsahn circa 1993-94. The closest comparison to a well known extreme vocalist for those not familiar with this era of the style would be Shagrath, though obviously what surrounds Abbath is pretty different from Dimmu Borgir’s more melodic/symphonic offerings.
Perhaps the real source of discontent amongst some in the fringes of the black metal scene, or perhaps its most consistent adherents to its anti-establishment nature, is that this album is pretty accessible in its structural makeup. Each of these songs, in spite of their viciousness and speed, are fairly compact and simple, resembling songs rather than elaborate compositions. In the particular cases of “Frozen By Icewinds” and “As The Eternity Opens”, you could actually refer to this music as fairly catchy. The recurring lyrical passages containing the song titles could be treated as refrains/choruses of sorts, and the symmetrical sense of riff development and beat constancy versus contrast result in songs that adhere closer to traditional structure than what Darkthrone, Burzum and Enslaved were up to at this point. The title track “Pure Holocaust” actually is catchy and formulaic enough that an elimination of the constant double bass blur could morph it into an extreme thrash offering ala Destruction or Morbid Saint.
Ultimately this album could be described as being both overrated and underrated. It is the former in the sense that it is seen as some sort of iconic staple of greatness by all genre standards, which discounts the towering greatness of too many bands that were active at the same time. It is the latter in the sense that those who pass it up often do so simply because of a perceived deficit in the originality department. But to ears tempered by nuance, ergo one that can visualize the lines between what is truly groundbreaking and spellbinding; versus what is an enjoyable listen and solid throughout, this is something that definitely deserves praise fitting of the second category. Immortal put forth a fine collection of songs here that can easily be enjoyed by most black metal fans, excluding those who demand nuclear fallout styled, mutation-like leaps in stylistic evolution that uses a subjective time standard on a singular album. It may not be “Hvis Lyset Tar Oss”, “Under A Funeral Moon”, “In The Nightside Eclipse” or “Vikingligr Veldi”, but on its own it gets the job done nicely.
Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on January 21, 2009.
Whilst standing amongst giants, it's easy to dissolve and diminish something that is equally as good, but simply holds its value in a different light. If you're lost, I'm talking about Immortal's, and in particular, Pure Holocaust's place amongst the big Norwegien baddies of black metal. Mayhem's Deathcrush, and subsequent releases might of established the norm for second wave black metal, and as Burzum developed the more dreary and simplistic vision of black metal they both held their own against Darkthrone's mighty Celtic Frost worship, and arguably one of the greatest metal albums ever, A Blaze in the Northern Sky. Beyond those three entities, along with the epitome of symphonic black metal (Emperor's In the Nightside Eclipse) the other "classics" of that era seem to fall to the wayside, albums like Pentagram, Vikingligr Veldi, Aspera Hiems Symfonia, Et Eeventyr i 5 Capitler,and In the Streams of Inferno. Each one of these albums is an amazing work of art, but for whatever reason has never caught the same praise that DMDS, ABINS, Transilvanian Hunger, or Filosofem has received, and it is no different for Immortal's Pure Holocaust.
It is true that Pure Holocaust lacks the same depth and atmosphere that is on Filosofem, and that people believe to present on Tansilvanian Hunger, and it doesn't contain any of the historical importance that any early Mayhem release carried, but that doesn't mean it is not quality music. If there's a knock to be made against Pure Holocaust it is its lack of atmosphere and the tendency for the tracks to run together, beyond that it is flawless.
Where A Blaze In the Northern Sky contained that Celtic Frost groove, and most other releases at the time (with the exception of blast happy Hellhammer Mayhem) were more tame when it came to speed and outright ferocity, Pure Holocaust captures a chilling and unmatched ferocity. The absolute whirlwind of blast beats and double bass amongst a flurry of tremolo picked riffs really do create a vibe of an unstoppable winter gust. Not to say Hat's vocals aren't ferocious, or Hellhammer couldn't keep up with Abbath (hahahaha), I'm simply saying Immortal's brand of black metal contained an inoffensive (no bewildering vocals: see early Burzum, Gorgoroth, or Attila/Maniac)but overwhelming vibe that made it accessible, enjoyable, as well as an excellent model as to how to do black metal right.
Demonaz writes some of the best black metal riffs ever for this album, the obvious one being the main riff to "The Sun No Longer Rises," which is mind blowing every time I hear it, and has been copied by none-other than our beloved Kanwulf of Nargaroth. Beyond that one outstanding riff, there's countless others "As The Eternity Opens, "Unsilent Storms In The North Abyss," "A Sign For The Norse Hordes To Ride..." well pretty much every song. Every song on the album has at least two brain splattering riffs, if not more. The awesome riff to song ratio alone makes this a great album.
Abbath's vocals are ideal, as well as typical for modern times. Venomous and throaty, I can't help but feel that Abbath had a very solid and often copied rasp. Abbath's signature sloppy, but solid drumming is fun to listen to and adds a level of personality, which would serve as a good contrast to how bad drum machines really are. I don't see how anyone can complain about his drumming, he's on time for the most part, and sometimes just doesn't maintain the same force, something triggers would hide, but luckily Abbath is an old school kind of guy about that junk.
To bash this album, and say it contains little; to nothing interesting is something that is far beyond my ability of thought. There are plenty of riffs that are catchy and kick ass, as well an overwhelming brutality of speed and destruction.
I find it funny to see how little Immortal imitation there is, everyone and thier mother has covered Burzum/Darkthrone/Mayhem, yet I don't know of one Immortal cover. I.C.E comes to mind as a tribute to Immortal, as well as Kanwulf's plagiarism on "Erik, May You Rape The Angels" (which might be some skewed tribute to Immortal, as well as the drummer, but it's the same goddamn riff except for like one note) and the countless bands that seemed to borrow Immortal's 'campy' lyrical style.
Pure Holocaust is a genre defining, as well as essential black metal album. As mentioned earlier, it might not carry the historical weight of some other releases, or the innovation of others, but it is a highly competent and enjoyable album that seems to have an unspoken and unobserved influence amongst countless black metal acts. Immortal were busy writing great riffs and constantly fine tuning themselves while some of the other Norwegian bands got caught up with the idea of a movement, and others in their own popularity. Immortal might have changed over time, but they've always retained their own flavour and have never compromised. With the exception of Enslaved and Ulver, Immortal's career is far more impressive then crap like Grand Declaration of War, Goatlord, Destroyer, any Burzum midi album, IX Equilibrium, there is no such thing as a bad Immortal release, some just a little less fulfilling than others.
Pure Holocaust is an immortal classic, and it should never be overlooked.
Alright, I like to start off with the minority, so I'll jump right into this with the cons.
Very few things, nothing is overtly wrong about this album in any means of the word. The only complaint I really have is...uhh, maybe a slightly better tone, or something to that extent. Though, the tone is actually remarkable for a 90-95 BM release, and retains its cold touch and grisly crunch.
Alright, onto the pros. The album is chock full of these. The riffs, Demonaz was crazy. I'll simply say he could write some creepy power chord progressions, then easily switch into his trademark melodic tremolo lines. The guitar is fairly high in the mix, which is probably what gives the album a more distinct powerful feel than the generic "Cymbals In the Front" recording style seen by many LLN bands. The dissonance some of the tracks exude (Example: 2:48 of Frozen By Icewinds) is sheer genius. The tracks are why melodic black metal (when done right, of course) is one of my favorite genres of metal.
Now, the vocals. They are much different to the debut "Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticism," in fact, Abbath was doing a rather usual black emtal screech on DFM, but on this he combined his trademark frog voice and the usual screech to form a masterful voice. His vocals are astounding on the track "Sign For the Norse Hordes To Ride" and show what black metal vocalists are capable of, without having to sound like Dani Filth. In the vocal vein, the lyrics. They are, like most early Immortal, grim. Abbath was pioneering what would become so generic and overused, but even now his lyrics are so awe inspiring, to me. Bass is rarely heard on the album, to be honest.
Drums: I was turly expecting constant blasting when I picked this up all those years ago, and boy was I pleasently surprised. He blasts, yes, but he does so much more than that. He has the occaisional simple "stock pattern" and the standard death metal bass beats, but the way he works the drums in response to the guitar is what truly pulls it apart. He, along with Anders Nordin (of early Opeth fame), played the drums in a style that it made them sound almost harmonized with the guitars, adding another dimension to the already breathtaking music.
All in all, this album is instrumentally perfect (though, I dropped a few points for the lack of bass) and vocally horrifying, in a good way. The debut, Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticism, was of course a landmark in black metal and showed the way for the Norwegian brand of black metal, but Pure Holocaust proves why black metal should be/is taken seriously. It's a combination of melody, melancholia, fury, and raw power, equaling a force to be reckoned with in the musical world.
The album in a whole, is a joy to listen to as well. It brings me sadness to hear it finish, only for it to be started again. The album, in lack of a better word, is a masterpiece, through and through. Praise Immortal.
Unsilent Storms In the North Abyss
Sign For the Norse Hordes To Ride
Frozen By Icewinds
As the Eternity Opens
On Pure Holocaust, Immortal created a chilling atmosphere of melancholy, darkness, and strength through the use of frenzied melodic riffs, convincing conceptual lyrics, and an image that has become iconic and inseparable from the music.
The song structures are simple but effective thanks to the high quality of the riffs and the conviction of the band's performance. Discord and melody clash on Demonaz' fretboard while Abbath revels in describing alien landscapes of eternal winter as the drumming is akin to a blizzard raging in the background. These techniques came to define the sound of classic Immortal in addition to helping evolve the sound of black metal to the point where these elements are now considered to be a standard right down to the winter references in the lyrics.
To pick out the highlights of each track would get tedious since every song on Pure Holocaust is compelling and enjoyable. "A Sign For the Norse Hordes to Ride" features that powerful riff at 1:03 that makes you feel as if you're moving toward a battlefield covered in frost where death or glory awaits. "Frozen By Icewinds" is a title that fits the song well as the chord progressions are near-immobile to the point of hypothermia before the track closes with a simplistic sorrowful lead. "Storming Through Red Clouds and Holocaust Winds" opens with unadulterated chaos that shifts among a few great riffs until Immortal delve into an even more shivering and desolate mood in the middle of the song without losing any of the power they had created up to then. Of course, listeners may be seized by a fit of laughter near the end on the last time Abbath screams the song title, but other than that one break from character, his performance fits the song well.
Pure Holocaust is not only a great CD from Immortal, but a monument that testifies to the brilliance of the Norwegian black metal bands of the early-90s whose own unique sound has become the template for almost every black metal band since. No, Immortal didn't create winter, but their singular vision was enough to make you suspend your disbelief and see them as the incarnate blizzard beasts and winterdemons glorified in their lyrics. This is a skill that has been almost forgotten by a majority of black metal bands, even by those who were once innovators.
Pure Holocaust is an album that continues to influence bands to this day while serving as a reminder of the glory that once was.
This is probably one of the most influential and revered albums of the second wave of black metal. Its fame is at least partly due to the fact it came out in the early nineties, the notorious heyday of the genre. However, there’s a lot more to Immortal’s Pure Holocaust than just its reputation, as it also has plenty to offer musically – in fact, it has everything you’d expect from a “true” black metal album. Shoddy low-fi production? Check. (Though it’s nowhere near as low-fi as, say, Transilvanian Hunger.) Minimalistic black-and-white cover artwork? Check. (This time we get to see the band members in full black metal gear, complete with spiky leather armbands, corpse paint and a seriously pissed-off expression on their faces.) A drummer that seems to have forgotten that you can actually do other things with your drum kit than play incessant blast beats? Check. Totally illegible band logo? Check. Occult lyrics? Check. (Though they don’t deal with Satan here, but rather with icy winter landscapes haunted by demons, or something.) Buzz-saw guitars that sound like a swarm of angry hornets? Check. (Maybe the band had just been stung by said hornets, hence their pissed-off expressions?) A singer who sounds like a raging panther that just got shot in the ass by a tranquilizer dart? Check. Seriously though, what I’m trying to say is that while black metal can be a little over the top sometimes, we definitely wouldn’t want it any other way. That would be like Manowar without their patented fur loin cloths or Lemmy without the warts in his face.
Anyway, back to the actual music. Black metal has given us plenty of great albums over the years, and Pure Holocaust certainly is one of them. While it may not be perfect, it still stands as one of the finest examples of pure Norwegian black metal ever recorded. And it wastes no time getting to the point either – instead of setting the mood first with a spooky keyboard intro or something like that, it immediately starts pummeling the listener with a vicious barrage of relentless blast beats that hardly ever lets up for the entire duration of the record.
The first three songs on Pure Holocaust are all highlights. Whereas the opener has some nice melodic touches in between all the blasting (check the part right after Abbath screams “Unsilent storms in the north abyss”), “A Sign for the Norse Hordes to Ride” is, if that’s indeed possible, even rawer and faster. This is followed by “The Sun No Longer Rises”, which slows things down a bit for the first time and used to be a live staple.
The fourth track, “Frozen by Icewinds”, keeps things fresh by delivering some well-executed brutal mid-tempo passages. Unfortunately, the following two songs – “Storming Through Red Clouds and Holocaustwinds” and “Eternal Years on the Path to the Cemetery Gates” – mark a slight drop-off in quality. Consisting mainly of endless blast beats and lacking any particularly memorable moments, they just rush by the listener without making a lasting impression. The final two songs, however, easily make up for that. Both “As the Eternity Opens” and “Pure Holocaust” are much more varied and provide this album with a near-perfect finish. The former is another slower song with more pounding double-bass drumming and some very nice hints of melody, particularly towards the end, when it speeds up again and the blasting is accompanied by subtle choir arrangements. The title track comes up with some utterly brilliant riffs, which are simply amazing and almost single-handedly justify buying this record. There’s this incredible mid-tempo riff repeated throughout the song that you just can’t get out of your head once you’ve heard it for the first time. As some reviewers have pointed out before, it’s very reminiscent of the Imperial March theme from the Star Wars movies. I don’t know whether Immortal ripped it off or the similarity is purely coincidental, but that riff is so stunning that it doesn’t really matter anyway.
All things considered, this is a fine album by one of the figureheads of Norwegian black metal – maybe not great, but certainly very good. Though it has a few minor flaws, the positive far outweighs the negative, and there’s no doubt in my mind that this is compulsory for everyone with at least a passing interest in black metal. (By the way, feel free to add ten points to my rating for historical significance.)
Choicest cuts: Unsilent Storms in the North Abyss, The Sun No Longer Rises, As the Eternity Opens, Pure Holocaust
Lots of things have been said about "Pure Holocaust" and almost any fan of black metal generally praises it. Some even say it's the best album that ever came out of Norway. I remember hearing one or two songs off this album a long time ago and I didn't give it any further attention (main reason being that my interest in black metal wasn't very developed yet) at the time, but the aforementioned praise was the primary reason why I decided to give "Pure Holocaust" a fair chance. That's why I was pretty exited before I hit the play button - I liked Immortal's later work quite a lot, so I expected something even greater by reading the reviews on the archives - and after I listened to the whole thing in one sitting I said to myself:
"Boy, this has got to be one of the most overrated albums I've ever heard."
Surely an exaggeration I made due to the slight shock I experienced, but it comes close. It's almost completely forgettable. I don't know, but I also have to disagree when it comes to the so-called "catchiness" of this record, being that it neither grabs you by the balls and moves you along with it, nor are there any riffs or vocal lines which one remembers even after more than just a few listens - the songs completely blend into each other and leave no impression to the listener.
Vocal-wise, this album offers nothing new to the Immortal table, so if you liked Abbath's styles on later albums, you'll most likely dig this too, but that is about the only factor that remained the same over the years. Lyric-wise, "Pure Holocaust" is no different to other early works of the band, telling words about the Nordic ice lands which are/were frozen by holocaust/cold/frostbitten/demonic/whatever kinds of winds - nothing that can be taken very seriously, but we all know that Immortal always has some kind of...humorous touch.
Something an observant reviewer before me already noticed is the lack of originality. It is not a blatant rip-off of late 80s Bathory, but Quorthon's work was definitely their source of inspiration. While I think it does share some similarities with the "modern" black metal we know today, most of this is still firmly rooted in the late 80s, but without the lack of the aforementioned memorability. "Pure Holocaust" doesn't sound fresh and new either - back then I thought it hasn't aged well, but nowadays I tend to think that I wouldn't even have considered it "innovative" if I had listened to it when it was released.
Overall, the album has very few redeeming features, such as the song "The Sun No Longer Rises" which is about the only song I tend to remember and some rather inspired drumwork appearing here and there in-between the blasting.
I have listened to this album several times, trying to find out what all the fuzz was about, but even today, I don't get it. What makes this album so special? What is YOUR reason for calling this "essential"? Seriously, I'd like to know.
This album was a huge disappointment for me, especially since I liked most of the stuff that the band did after this. Steer clear of this if you like memorable riffs, proper songwriting and originality - you won't find those things here.
Though they have gone on to become the poster boys for stereotypical black metal, Immortal stormed onto the Norwegian scene at the perfect time with their sophomore album, Pure Holocaust. At a time when most other bands were bashing away with more thrash-based attacks and Bathory worship, Immortal introduced their signature form of black metal that has since become the standard for Norsecore. Clearly, things have changed since the band's debut. What we have here is an early example of the merciless, ripping black metal that has often been imitated, but rarely done right.
A few trademarks of Immortal's sound make their debut here, mainly the trebly and cold guitar distortion and Abbath's croaking vocals. The guitar are balls-out speed the whole time, but hold a great deal of variety. Hazy, ambient tremolo riffs float atop of trains of power chords, and there are also sections of arpeggiated chords with a feeling of disharmony and hatred. Abbath's deadpan, lifeless rasp adds a stern, almost militant demanor to the harsh, chaotic music; the sometimes gramatically incorrect, albeit fierce and cryptic lyrics are the first of many to explore the themes of Blashyrkh, harsh tundra winters, etc. Too bad that Immortal spawned so many clones, because all of this worked out geniously.
On a songwriting level, Immortal ditched some of the elements of their debut, and everything on an instrumental level seems more mature and developed than what most Norse bands were doing at the time. All of the structures are very cut, direct, and dry, following the typical black metal formula of riffs followed by more riffs. However, Immortal push everything to a new extreme on Pure Holocaust. Really, they were one of the first bands to make black metal more bent on audial brutality than aesthetic. Incredibly fast tempos push the songs into a manic, schizophrenic maelstrom, which is only taken further by the blurry guitars and incessant pummeling of double bass and blast beats. Songs like "A Sign for the Norse Hordes to Ride" and "Eternal Years on the Path to the Cemetary Gates" show off the band's chops, and delve into inhumanly fast, constantly shifting guitar and drum patterns, both of which are pulled off with a mechanical tightness. Things do start to sound rather familiar halfway through the album, though; it's easy to mistake songs for one another, and the song titles don't help matters either.
Though this album doesn't really possess any "atmosphere" on a strictly musical level, the production adds a certain distant ambience to everything. The guitars aren't as polished as later albums, and the grating distortion has an open, airy feel to it. The pounding, machine-like drums are produced very much similar to De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas; the snare echoes with a full, boxy sound, the toms cascade with a fat, deep punch, and the bass drum is one of the only things that adds low-end to the mix, since the bass guitar isn't that audible.
While it's certain that Immortal would evolve in years to come, and the fact that this album has been cloned a million times, Pure Holocaust nonetheless stands as an important document in non-melodic, face-shredding black metal that embodies the feral rage of black metal and its spirit.
Immortal's second album from 1993 is a black metal classic. The "kvlt" black metal fans that all dismiss newer Immortal releases as being crap would all say this is the high-point of this bands career. I think of Immortal as having three seperate eras. There's the old school black metal era, the fast as fuck era and then the more epic blackened thrash era. This album ends their old school black metal era, and not taking anything away from the album that came before this, this is definitely their best from that period.
Where to start? Well the production is marginally better than that on Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticism but still has that nice semi-underproduced sound. Most songs are relatively short but contain that epic feeling, Unsilent Storms in the North Abyss for example. Abbath does a mediocre job on drums, but the riffs and atmosphere are what makes this album a masterpiece.
The last two songs on this album are both worth mentioning. I don't like giving a song-by-song review as it usually tends to get boring, but these two songs are the highlights of this album. First is As the Eternity Opens and damn the riff playing throughout this song is amazing. The album closer is the title track and ranks as one of my favorite Immortal songs ever and favorite from this period of their career. This song is black fucking metal!
This album is pretty much perfect from start to finish. Immortal would release more popular albums after this, some with better riffs but none of them have the epicness and atmosphere of Pure Holocaust. This ranks as my second favorite Immortal album and is a must for everyone into metal.
Immortal came back about a year later with their second album, “Pure Holocaust”. It is definitely a good album and an improvement from their first. There are still some things that could be worked on.
First of all, the production, while still poor, is much better here which is a godsend. Everything on this album is much more clear. The guitar melodies are excellent especially on “Unsilent Storms of the North Abyss” and “A Sign For the Norse Hordes to Ride”. The vocals are also much more clear, although they still sound rather weak and uninspired, almost as if Abbath were just chanting them aimlessly in a low growl.
There are also a few more complaints and that is that even though the melodies are rather good, but as a whole this just comes up to slightly above average. Many times the music almost sounds like static because the guitars are uneven with each other and playing totally different tunes and while the guitars are slow the drums pound away like crazy. This creates a somewhat incoherent sound that does sound like static sometimes. The guitars should be more aligned with one another and definitely play at a closer speed with the drums.
Other than that this is a great black metal album, still sounds a bit raw, however not as dark as “Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticism”. It still is dark, but instead of me feeling like I am standing in cold Nordic woods in the middle of the night, its more like evening or dawn. True black metal fans will still love this album however, and this sedon album increases my overall respect for Immortal.
This, right here folks, is how you do your shit. I don't care what genre - Black, Death, Thrash, Speed, whatever the fuck - if you make an album anywhere near the atmospheric, choatic, and sonic excellence of Immortal's 'Pure Holocaust', you've got some extreme talent. 'Pure Holocaust' is currently the best fuckin' album in existence, and I really don't care what anyone says. The feeling you (I) get when listening to the album is beyond words. Not only is it a feeling of extreme coldness and isolation, which is natural considering their tone (more on that later) and lyrics (also more later), you get a feeling of betrayal and evil (both in the best possible ways), and it makes you want to lead an army into an epic battle.
Alot of people talk about Immortals tone, which is very unique, and mood setting. All the low's and mid's have been turned off their amps, you can tell. All you hear is the sonic crunch and icy distortion of the guitars. It only supports the lyrics in the best possible way, and the overall excellence and setting of the album. The lyrics are that of Winter, Frost, Ice and Snow - bringing to mind dark images of Norway during the winter, trolling through an ice-riddled wood. This album completley transports you to another place, in another time, and once the albums done, you come back to reality.
The riffs are one of the best things about the album. They are icy, crunchy, heavily distorted, and often tremolo picked speed demons that sound cryptic and evil. Demonaz is probably my favorite riff writer of all time, after listening to such amazing albums such as this one and 'Sons of Northern Darkness'. The only person I would consider even close to the riff-writing genius that is Demonaz is Seamus DeVille from Slave Whipping Blasphemy. Thats right, not even Euronymous could touch what riffs Demonaz wrote, De Mysteriis or no De Mysteriis. Actually, in my personal opinion, 'Pure Holocaust' fucking crushes De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas on my own personal 'favorites' scale.
Now, let's take a look at some of the best songs from the album.
What a fucking way to start an album! Pure Holocaust opens right up with one of the most unforgiving, cold and best tracks on the album - 'Unsilent Storms in the North Abyss'. It's starts up with an icy riffs and insanley fast drumming that is constant (And even speeds up) throughout the entirety of this song. 'A Sign for the Norse Horse To Ride' is probably the most unforgiving, merciless song on the record, because right from the beggining, we are treated with a sonic barrage of icy guitars and demonic drum pounding, with virtually no room to breathe through the whole song. 'Storming Through Red Clouds and Holocaust Winds' is just...pure...fucking...atmosphere. You get that shiver down your spine, and you will swear you are a frostbitten Epic warrior riding through the very gates of fuckin' Hades. 'As the Eternity Opens' is very Mayhem-ish, only far better than anything Mayhem ever put out, with or without Dead. It has those amazing riffs, and the vocals (more on these later). As the title track slowly fades in, you know this is going to be one hell of a ride. Blast beats, cryptic riffage, venemous vocals, bass? - it's all here. And at it's best. These are only a few of the standout cuts - personally, I think the whole album is excellent.
The vocals are very good here. Not gurgled, like death metal, not shrieked, like some Black Metal (mostly NSBM), it's just venemous growls and snarls, spat onto the microphone. Great vocals, and goes with the (flow?) of the album perfectly, only making it scarier in contrast.
Overall, this is one of the greatest fucking albums of our time, in my opinion. I don't really care what anyone says about 'Powerslave', 'Melissa', or 'The Specter Within' - to me, this is a classic. This is my fucking god. Listen to this album now.
Okay. I'm going to get pissed on for writing a review not hailing one of the black metal greats ... but I'm going to do it, regardless. First, allow me to state: I like Immortal, they are ... good. Not great, not spectacular, not Godly.
From my gathering, this is one of their landmark albums. To me, that only makes them worse. There's a number of reasons ... and, by no means am I saying this album is terrible or anything, because it is good. It's one of the better true black metal releases I've heard.
Let me also state, that where I do understand what black metal is supposed to be about - I do not fully agree with it. If you'll notice, that's why I've stayed away from reviewing black metal. But hear I go ...
Normally, I comment about the production. The production on this CD, for the style - is very good. Actually, for the style (and for this style only) I'd almost say it's perfect. The guitars sound gritty and raw ... the drums sound ... eh ... the drums are there ... the vocals are fair, a bit too loud at times, though.
The vocals however do bother me. I prefer the vocals on Sons Of Northern Darkness, simply because there's not that sound of gurgling, high pitch eh ... I wouldn't even call them screams, technically. But, his voice is very fucking dark.
But, about the songs themselves - they're structured very well, and are evil as Hell. There are a couple songs when the riffs are stretched out like rubber bands, though. The Sun No Longer Rises, for example. Overall, the songs do perfectly well, in getting their bleak, post-Armageddon, grim sound across.
Here's where I completely disagree with most every other fan of black metal, Immortal, and this CD in particular, though. The drumming.
I can't even sugar-coat this - the drumming sucks. There's generally two intentional styles in metal drumming - tight, and sloppy. This falls under neither. He will seem to play "sloppy" at times to the casual or unknowing listener - but, that is simply not the case. There's a bunch of unintentional tempo changes, and even some missed beats - and think you what you want, but to me, that does not add to "darkness", or "grimness" or anything. Perhaps this is one reason I don't listen to much black metal. Furthermore, the drums can sound very drone-like and repetitive - and yes, I understand that it's uncool in the black metal community to do "fancy", "complex" or "showy" drumming, but ... that's what I like to hear - though, that's not even what I'm asking for ... the earlier was more of my problem though (tempo changes. etc.)
And I'm sure everyone will try to take a shit on me for this, but really, out of all the CDs I have, this is not something I would be quick to go to ... really, I'd prefer this as background music. Though it is good. I would really prefer bands like Blut Aus Nord or Slagmark, being more abstract, and a bit more technical (or much more technical in the case of Slagmark) ... or even Bathory, has more depth, on the middle releases. (Twilight of the Gods, etc.)
Closing thought: It's good, true black metal. You want great, seek out Slagmark, or Blut Aus Nord. (And don't take a shit on me for this review.)
Personally, I like Immortal and that's all - there is no love between us. They play nice music, though their image and style is more annoying than scary. But there is an album, which makes Immortal equal to the great BM classics. It is called "Pure Holocaust"...
I haven't heard "Battles in the North" yet (I saw only "Grim and Frostbitten Kingdom" and "Blashyrkh (Mighty Ravendark)" videos - really pathetic), so the evolution of Immortal is not clear for me. I see a big difference between "Pure Holocaust" and "Blizzard Beasts" (or every other later Immortal album). While the later releases are concentarted on heavy, death-metal-like riffs and the minimum use of bass, "Pure Holocaust" has got definitely different sound. Here you got riffs, which get totally messed with other sounds on the album, and the only guitar thing you would hear with no effort are those high sounds, reminding me Swedish BM style. On the other hand, you've got loud and clear drums. The vocals are less annoying than they are on the other releases, maybe beacuse of a light echo. The quality of production is bad, but it creates the atmosphere in a way...
...yeah, the atmosphere is what makes this album so great. Every song is set in the very cold, mysterious climate, more freezing than it will be in the times, when the lyrics will turn into the anthems of frost, battles and mountains (cold, mountains, wind, battle, wind, winter, mountains, frost, battle and so on - annoying, isn't it?). Here, the lyrics are more standard - the themes of holocaust, hordes, cemetery and so on.
However, this would be nothing if the songs were not interesting. Here, you've got eight tracks, which vary form great to genious. Great riffs (you just have to listen carefully), various tempo, even guitar solos - it all makes this album really various, but set in one style, one climate. If you start listening, you won't stop until the tape/cd stops.
You won't avoid listening to it, if you think you're a BM fan. Just classic and just genious.
the best: "Unsilent Storms in the North Abyss", "The Sun no Longer Rises", "Frozen by Icewinds", "As the Eternity Opens"
The album starts off Unsilent Storms in the North Abyss, immediately coming at you with blasting drums and ripping guitars. This song really gets the raw atmosphere going on this album.
A Sign for the Norse Hordes to Ride continues this atmosphere with some good guitar work, and good drumming. Some good raw black metal here. This leads into Sun No Longer Rises, this song has some good riffage, this song includes the first part on the album where the music begins to slow down a little, the music is slow, but powerful, not to a doom metal level, but it's considerably slow compared to the rest of the album. The song picks up a little towards the end, this is one my favorite songs on the album.
Frozen By Icewinds picks the album back to the normal speed, this song is more or less defined by it's drumming. A solid track, nothing special here, other than some good tremelo picking. The album then picks up speed with Storming Through Red Clouds And Holocaustwinds, raw, fast black metal here. Excellent vocals here. For this song, think Darkthrone with better drumming, better vocals, better guitar work and faster. Good stuff here. Keeping the intensity up, Eternal Years On The Path To The Cemetary Gates starts with some good tremelo picking, which is then drowned out by the drumming. This song switches between slower riffs and faster riffs very well. Solid track.
As The Eternity Opens starts off with a nice riff with the arrangement of a melodic death song gone black metal, the song evolves throughout into more and more black metal. One of my favorite tracks on the album, good stuff here.
The last track, Pure Holocaust fades in, the music here is fast and agrressive. Shifting between slow and fast tremelo picking before going into all out agressive mode. The song fades out, ending the album. This is my favorite track on the album.
Solid album, though for anyone into black metal it is a must have.
Immortal's masterpiece for sure. Pure Holocaust is an album that manages to create the same grim, foreboding, yet epic atmosphere as other bands of the time (Burzum, Darkthrone,) while remaining a blistering and purely metal release. The entire album is marked by chiseled and pummeling riffs that seem to swirl like the biting blizzards of the north. There is no doubt that Immortal's best songwriting can be found on this album. The compositions here are amazing! A relentless torrent of blasting doublebass, while detrimental to rhythm for many other bands, provides the perfect background for the blazing, complex riffs and changes that fill this album. Abbath's abrupt, grim, troll croak is fully developed here; it sharpens the songs like a frozen blade, adding the perfect edge.
The production here is distant but not muddled or too detached. It could be compared somewhat to the production on Burzum's first album; not lifeless by any means, but not wholy organic. Everything is mixed well.
Every piece is a monument to coldness, battle, and ancient strength. The lyrics reflect transcending to darkness, embracing coldness and desolation to become truly demonized. Holocaust is also a theme: merciless warfare and the destruction of all enemies.
There are no filler songs on Pure Holocaust. There are however several exceptional highlights. The opening track, "Unsilent Storms In The North Abyss," is one of the most powerful openers on any black metal album. The riffs are moving and epic, almost oppressive; the ominous and devilish atmosphere on this song is hard to beat. Another favorite is "As The Eternity Opens." The slowest song on Pure Holocaust (though not slow by any means,) this song has some of the most epic riffs ever written by Immortal. The way the song travels and flows fits incredibly well with the theme; a journey into a dark, immortal eternity. The absolute most epic moment in Immortal's discography can be found in this song at 4:40 when the choir kicks in. Beautiful, simply beautiful. The final song on the disc, the title track, is the most militaristic and driving piece on the album. The "Star Wars"-esque verse riffs form the soundtrack to demonic and barbaric warfare, an ancient pagan battle against the light. This song is a preview of the fast and warlike songs that fill "Battles In The North."
No black metaller's education of the genre can be complete without appreciating Pure Holocaust. This album is a landmark. There are no glaringly negative comments that I can make about it. Luckily, the disc is still somewhat easy to find. I give it an almost perfect score. Buy or die? Most definitely.
I originally thought Immortal to be one of the cheesiest black metal bands I had ever heard, after hearing a few songs like "Grim And Frostbitten Kingdoms." (embrace the cheese!) The popeye vocals, overuse of blastbeats, and mandatory corpsepaint made me laugh at first, like I did with King Diamond (all hail), but I pursued them further. I then discovered Pure Holocaust, one of their original works before Demonaz's accident made them more commercial, but nonetheless still a great band. This album, however, is pure freezing darkness.
The guitar work and the style it's played in are hard to describe, being something of a fast-played chaotic white noise with an echoing tremolo sound and a hint of a melodic element, but can be best described as subzero ice. They are the some of the coldest riffs that I have ever heard, and are truly alien and great. The drums alternate between chaotic and epic, and frequently launch blastbeats not meant solely for noise and shock effect like they usually are nowadays, but rather add to the suffocating blizzard this album represents, rather than take away from it. The fast bass lines add a very deep, haunting effect that's almost subliminal in nature, and provides that subconscious black metal drone to it.
The vocals are undoubtably Abbath's raspy vocals, but he doesn't sound as much like a demonic Popeye in this album -- it's more colder and withered than his later works, and has what sounds like a faint echo. The lyrics are bizarre, epic, fantastic, supernatural, and imaginative, and sound like they were written by someone from a very distant like the fictional polar realm of Blashrykh described. Even the large compound, Nordic sounding words like "wintercoffin" and "holocaustwinds," the accent, and the mispronouncings -- tragedies sounds something like "tregadiiz" and so forth -- only add to the mystique.
Unsilent Storms in the Northern Abyss is the first track, and is as chaotic as a blizzard. The blastbeat drums, dark bass, and the freezing atonal guitar shifts rapidly to warp speed in pandemonium -- reminding that this is not a primitive or minimalist album, but a rather complex and epic one.
A Sign for the Norse Horses to Ride begins with a barrage of blastbeats, noisy riffs, and driving bass, only to switch gears to an epic tremolo sound, and right back and forth between a frenzied epic chaos and some remote semblance of sanity.
The Sun No Longer Rises is a chilling concept, and this song fulfills it. It begins with a lambasting of cold riffing, thunderous blastbeats, and then slows down into a song that's slow, dark, and outright creepy. The lyrics mix evil in with the description of the inhospitable environment with lines like "I believe in tragedies ... and desecration." I almost feel like I've travelled in the polar circle after listening to this one, even though the farthest north I've ever been is southern Maine.
Frozen by Icewinds continues with the frostbitten cold riffs that are almost melodic, the insane drumming, and the deep bass, as it describes in complex chaos what sounds like a lonesome schizophrenic soul committing suicide by freezing to death.
Storming through Red Clouds and Holocaustwinds begins with what sounds like a completely alien, bizarre solo, except for the fact that the drums and bass do not relent. This song is quite extreme and absolutely relentless, as the environment I imagine it was written in, and the harshness only adds to its militant barbarian nature. The fast picking, bass work, and maniacal drumming in this song make me wonder if they really are supernatural evil barbarians from Blashrykh, not the Norwegian kids in corpsepaint.
Eternal Years on the Path to the Cemetary Gates isn't a slow song, but it's not a fast song either. It's more medium paced, but is still full of fast guitars and drum beats. As usual, Immortal delivers with fast and cold riffs and sudden chaotic shifts as they describe a supernatural return from the undead.
As the Eternity Opens is a masterpiece. It's a slower song in the vein of The Sun No Longer Rises, and it is just as creepy, if not even moreso. The guitars are more bleak than icy, the bass mournful and deep, and the drums leading a funeral march while using blastbeats to accentuate the evil and grim nature of this song. The vocals are supernatural, and are well sung and occasionally screamed in terror as they communicate how the nihilistic extinction of death in "light will disappear, it was never hear." Synthetic keyboard effects are used briefly towards the end of the song at around 4:45, but it's a haunting use of them that comes unexpectedly and goes straight into the subconscious.
Pure Holocaust is more epic in nature, and begins with a blizzard of ghostly riffs and blastbeats that grow louder and louder, as the song returns to medium pace but with great riff work, and abruptly to the blizzard again. The song is something of a narrative, describing the fantasy of dark militant armies of black unholy demons, thousands of deaths, and the holocaust between chaotic/melodic and epic sounding riffs and suffocating blastbeats.
If you want an album that's as cold, harsh, and dark as the polar circle, this is a must have. It's grim, but not minimalist, and it's extreme, but not over the top. It's also an imaginitive, unforgettable journey to a land as dark, cold, desolate, and alien as the environment that Abbath and Demonaz found in their journeys to the remotest regions of Norway, mixed in with fantastic evil. This album is a true black metal classic, and is a must have.