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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.