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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.