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When Immortal released "At The Heart Of Winter", which was the first to have Abbath write the music and play the guitar, you could tell that he was in favor of a more epic sound that contained a heavy atmosphere. As many had expected, he later built upon that style. The result that came from it was the album, "Damned In Black", from 2000. It was a more thrashy album. Some people were thinking that eventually, they would turn themselves into a thrash metal band, leaving behind the black metal genre. However, this was not the case. Their next album was released in 2002. That album was called "Sons Of Northern Darkness". It was a departure from its thrashy predecessor and actually was more epic than any of the material that was done in the past by them. It was also a heavier album, one of the heaviest that I have ever heard. With MASSIVE guitar work and drumming, as well as the gritty and forceful croaking vocals (no offence to the bass, just nothing that was EXTREMELY special about it), this album is exactly as powerful as they come.
The album's opener, "One By One" is an extremely fierce and heavy track with technical and fast drumming, along with epic and giant riffs. At some moments, Abbath comes close to pulling off a screaming style of vocals, before he goes back to his grim croaking. Containing a good lot of variation plus the level of aggression give this track a very warm and cozy spot in my medial temporal lobe. The title track has a beast of a riff, as well as the charismatic war lyrics that are typical of the band. It is a pretty epic track that deserves more acknowledgment than it really gets. Luckily, it is off of one of the band's most successful albums. "Tyrants" has a groovy beat and a riff that will stay in your head for days and days on end. I absolutely adore the melodic quiet parts that are in between, as well. The shriek that Abbath pulls off afterwards is absolutely bone-chilling. This was the lead single off of the album for a great reason. "Antarctica" has an atmospheric synth intro, followed by an epic riff that actually makes you feel like you are in the middle of an ice-covered landscape. Immortal is just one of those bands that are able to have an atmosphere that effective. Not too many of those bands out there, now are there. The closing track, "Beyond the North Waves" has a power metal sound, similar to Hammerfall. It has some heroic lyricism, based on the time of the Vikings. It actually has an uplifting sound. Somehow, they managed to pull this off on a black metal album. I enjoy it, so I won't judge it.
The guitar work on here is absolutely masterful. The riffs are aggressive and heavy as fuck, but still manage to be epic and atmospheric. Honest to god, Immortal is a riff based band that does it better than a lot of other bands out there. They send shivers down your spine and make you just want to repeat again and again. I just flat out love it when riffs do that. The solos actually focus more on lower notes than other bands do. To be honest, it doesn't seem like something that would work, before you actually hear it. It actually merely adds to the character of the music, which is nothing short of chilling. The drumming is also extremely powerful, but very technical. You can tell that this is a drummer that does not like to fuck around at all. He plays at extreme speeds at times, but he always plays very skillfully. Some black metal drummers just try to play fast. The result is a very sloppy drum line, which keeps everything off beat. If there is no beat to keep on, then there is a very sloppy album that has been made. Not here, though. Not here at all. I respect the hell out of this album for that. Respect and enjoyment are a very good combination, as we all know full well.
This album is nothing that falls under the category of "evil noise" and certainly is something that still falls under the category of extreme metal. We all know someone that will be shocked by that very statement alone, but who cares about people who just don't quite get it. As a fan of metal, as well as a fan of music, I can go by the words of Sam Dunn: "You either have an ear for it, or you don't". This is certainly something that I have an ear for and I can understand if people don't. This album is not for everyone, but it is unquestionably for me. While the music on the album may not really be superior to "At The Heart Of Winter", it is pretty damn close to it. Sure, the cheese gets a little too thick for me at times, but overall, this is one truly exceptional piece of the pie that is black metal music.
For a band that earned at least part of their fame on the fact they've rarely taken themselves seriously, Immortal have gone through an impressive number of evolutions. Even if not all ultimately bore the right kind of fruit, it's refreshing to see a band put so many spins on their own sound. Of these, At the Heart of Winter was arguably the most profound, having thrust the band's music down a more sophisticated, progressive, cleaner path than any may have thought possible. Shortly thereafter, Damned in Black brought the band back to a more straightforward approach. Immortal fans may have been irked about one change or the other; the fact they didn't attempt a second round of At the Heart of Winter's pummelling riff parade has me thinking they wanted to get more in touch with their frostbitten roots. I think they missed out big time with that simplification, but that's another story for another time.
In any case, I think Sons of Northern Darkness was another fascinating change for the band. It's as if, after making Damned in Black, that Immortal realized they weren't hitting the same notes they struck on their quasi-progressive opus. So there you have it; Immortal's seventh (and, for a good while, final) album is a ratification of the two past albums, making it a clean, catchy amalgam of their late renaissance. Sons of Northern Darkness has much of the same focus on distinct, interesting riffs as At the Heart of Darkness, but it retains the vaguely thrashy energy of the album before it. In many ways, this is an Immortal dream come true at last; the sort of Immortal record I might throw at someone who's never heard anything of the band before. It's clean but fierce, inventive without being complex, fresh while falling upon all of the tried-and-tested tropes that make the band what they are. This is Immortal, plain and pure, and there are few other instances in their career where they sounded so in tune with themselves.
The period I like to call Immortal's 'late renaissance' happened for one reason. With the changing lineup, Abbath's rise to the mantle of guitarist changed the game for them. I loved Demonaz's ravenous bite on Pure Holocaust, but Abbath took much greater care towards maing sure each riff was its own distinctive entity. Much like the two albums before it, Sons of Northern Darkness is chock full of riffs that would sound brilliant even if the songs around them were shoddy. Sons of Northern Darkness has got some great songwriting on it for the most part, but Abbath's riffs are the thing that ultimately cling in the mind the longest. "One By One" is quite possibly Immortal's best infusion with thrash metal; the band's everpresent thrash influence hasn't always led them on the right course, but here, it works. These songs have clearly been built around the riffs rather than vice-versa, and it's resulted in Immortal changing the pace quite often throughout. "One By One" is my favourite example of this, but there are other times here these guys manage to conjure the impression of an epic within relatively 'normal' song lengths. "In My Kingdom Cold" has all the markings of an instant Immortal classic, and "Tyrants" pairs the great riffcraft and epic atmosphere with tight songwriting mechanics.
There were few so experienced in their craft as Immortal by the point of 2002, and I think it shows on this album. I would have thought a clean approach to recording would have left the band sounding sterile. Luckily for Immortal, they were always more based in proper riffs and songwriting conventions over traditional blackened atmosphere, so the shift worked. I think Sons of Northern Darkness took things cleaner than ever before. Damned in Black offered some wilful chaos in its performance, but everything's under control on this album. Horgh's drumwork pairs with Abbath's guitars excellently, and the heavy bass presence (performed here by Abbath on all but one track, rather than Icariah as commonly listed) gives the mix a meaty quality seldom heard from bands of the Second Wave.
Sons of Northern Darkness obviously pales in many comparisons towards At the Heart of Winter, but the technicality and polish they picked up on the way shines here as well. I think At the Heart of Winter is my favourite Immortal record because it capitalizes on a few of their strongest traits. On the other hand, Sons of Northern Darkness broadens the scope a little, bringing in other traits to temper the vision. There's no doubting that the band's gimmicks had long since begun to wear out by this point, but the extra bite they have here compared to mid-90s trash like Blizzard Beasts goes to show any half-decent formula can be revived with the right kind of passion.
I admit that I still regret the split of Immortal. With the exception of "Blizzard Beasts", the band always delivered black metal of the highest quality. Their manifesto of fury, "Pure Holocaust", remains untouchable. Nevertheless, albums like the here presented "Sons of Northern Darkness" enriched the genre. Although they signed a contract with the somewhat greedy guys of Nuclear Blast, Abbath and Demonaz did not break with their past. Nevertheless, "Sons of Northern Darkness" was not the unofficial second part of a previous album. It did not possess the weird aura of their debut and it failed to deliver the inferno of "Pure Holocaust". Its eight songs did not generate the majestic feelings of "At the Heart of Winter" and the technical masturbation of "Blizzard Beasts" was fortunately a thing of the past. The guys of Immortal showed the next step of their development while offering a mix of high speed songs and almost elegiac tracks. In alignment with the different compositional patterns, the varied guitar work commuted between bulky riffs, flattening chords and more or less melodic lines.
"Demonium" was the only song that could not keep up with the other tunes. Its riffing reminded me a little of the hectic fourth full-length of the group. However, Nuclear Blast had opened the wallet so that the flawless production improved the impression of every single track. As a result, there was no need to stigmatize the song as a flop. The slightly convoluted guitars were just unable to develop their full effect. However, on each and every album, one track must be the worst and, as mentioned before, "Demonium" reached at least an average level. The good news is that it was much more difficult to identify the greatest highlight of the album, because there existed a lot of pretenders to the throne. One candidate for the award was "In My Kingdom Cold". It bundled the competencies of the band and demonstrated them within intensive seven minutes. Blast beats fueled the opening riff before the band reduced the velocity in order to make way for the less craggy chorus. But the most concise section of the song was marked by the ironclad mid-tempo part that set in at 3:42. The stoic rhythm guitar laid the foundation for a minimalist yet mighty melody line.
In general terms, the band made good use of its well-known advantages. Small details like a simple wind sample at the beginning of "Antarctica" were enough to create an icy aura, the hoarse vocals did not lack of power and the guitars combined aggressiveness and harmonies in a more or less faultless way. Appropriate breaks prevented that the songs suffered from repetitiveness. The almost overlong pieces of the album´s second half were even better than first four tracks. They emphasised the Nordic atmosphere sustainably. "Beyond the North Winds", for example, gave rise to endless white fields and inhospitable icebergs. While offering a fine mix of desperation and combativeness, the song was a worthy conclusion of the sixth studio album of the mature three-piece. Some might say that the full-length offers too many mid-paced parts. I think it is pointless to philosophize about this point of view. "Sons of Northern Darkness" was defaced with a ridiculous cover, but it was and still is definitely not a lame album. Although it lacks a bit of spectacular elements, its grim songs still belong to the best examples of Norwegian black metal.
Immortal's career is what some would affectionately describe as a roller coaster ride, Albums such as Pure Holocaust and At The Heart Of Winter proved to be some of black metal's finest, but on the other end of the scale the sub-standard Damned In Black and Blizzard Beasts showed that the band was as human as the next band. Ultimately, however, the band would iron out the creases in their thrash-ridden black metal formula, releasing two of the best in their catalogue and also two of the best that black metal had to offer. The first of these was their seventh studio release Sons Of Northern Darkness, a fifty minute long eight track affair that came right off of the back of the exceedingly mediocre Damned In Black and put Immortal back near the top of the black metal pile.
Three songs from this album are among the best in the band's entire discography, those songs being One By One, Tyrants and In My Kingdom Cold. These songs show off the band's signature sound, seamlessly fusing black metal with some of the genre's thrash influence. In My Kingdom Cold is possibly the best song they have ever written, with some brutal and yet catchy riffing and a very strong vocal performance from Abbath, unleashing some blood curdling shrieks during the chorus, screaming out the titular words "in my kingdom cold" in a tone that shows only apocalyptic chaos. Tyrants is home to one of the best drum performances Horgh ever put to record, switching from blast beats to thrash beats without any audible breaks in the sound whatsoever. One By One is the guitar player's song of this album, opening it up in spectacular fashion. However, this is not riff happy in the sense that the opener to At The Heart Of Winter was, instead being a much more refined and yet all the more ingenious style of aggression, being off the scale in both creativity and technicality. This is certainly Abbath's finest album, showcasing a musical evolution from the previous albums in ways that many guitarist's can only dream of.
The only song that shows any less talent than the others is the epic closer Beyond The North Waves which, at eight minutes in length, drags on a little too long for its own good, and repeats the same riff set a few too many times, something that Immortal are rarely guilty of. This is not to say that Beyond The North Waves is a bad song, as it is still light years ahead of much black metal. It is just a shame to see Abbath and his band release a less than stellar song, having been a band that, on its good albums, is flawless throughout. This is the one example of a great Immortal album that is not one hundred percent perfect.
The best thing about this album is that it set the stage for something even greater in the form of the band's last release to date, All Shall Fall, which built upon the thrash-influenced black metal styling the band had been experimenting with to mixed results for several albums. Sons Of Northern Darkness is a very fast, powerful and atmospheric album, with every single song feeling exactly like the lonely, desolate winter backdrops that Abbath describes so vividly in them, that is almost without fault. Were Beyond The North Waves a little shorter, this would have been their finest until the album that followed it off, as even the song In My Kingdom Cold on its own is more than worth purchasing this album for. This is definitely not a release to be missed, deserving listen from every metal listener no matter what their preferred genre, as it manages to blend many of these genres throughout, although generally sticking with the band's own sound that they have refined and honed to near perfection by this point.
2000’s Damned in Black marked the beginning of the end for Immortal. It was dull, innocuous, generic and commercial. Both the production and the songwriting were subpar from start to finish. It looked as if Immortal was out of ideas and was content to cash in on their image and the increasing popularity of black metal. For the most part, that’s exactly what happened; however, Immortal still had a few more good ideas left up their sleeves, though not nearly enough to create a whole new album. The result is 2002’s highly inconsistent Sons of Northern Darkness.
Sons of Northern Darkness fixes a few of the basic problems that plagued Damned in Black. The most notable upgrade is in the production. While Damned in Black sounded overly processed and one dimensional, Sons of Northern Darkness has a more layered sound, closer to that of At the Heart of Winter. As a result, Sons of Northern Darkness creates a much better atmosphere. The textured sound works well with the epic nature of the compositions. On the downside, Abbath’s vocals are overly modulated, making him sound like a cyborg lizard.
Sons of Northern Darkness is a strange one. While there are three truly excellent songs on this album, the rest of the tracks are total snoozers. The title track displays excellent songwriting, shifting between the biting tremolo of the verse, an unforgettable chorus and the solemn and epic bridge. “Tyrants” is a dark, mean and groovy beast with awesome chant along lyrics. “Beyond The North Waves” is a sweeping epic that vividly depicts vikings traversing the frigid northern seas on the way to battle. All three of these tracks are lively, inspired and energetic. The drumming is sharp and solos are killer. These three songs are on par with anything on At the Heart of Winter.
However, the quality of these three songs makes it all the more strange that the rest of the album is so bland. The other five songs are as flat and unimaginative as anything found on Damned in Black. Most of the songs are bloated with plodding choruses, dragged out bridges to nowhere and stale guitar solos. Three of the songs drag out to the seven minute mark, even though they have worn out their welcome within the first four minutes.
To make matters worse, the lyrics are some of Immortal’s poorest. While Demonaz was never exactly a poet, he did provide some powerful, image-laden lyrics on the early albums. On Sons of Northern Darkness, Demonaz has been reduced to talking about coldness and darkness over and over. He could at least have used a thesaurus. The words “dark”, “cold” and “black” are used in almost every song. Seriously, did Demonaz commission the lyric writing duties to a twelve year old fan? “Antarctica” talks about how cold and icy Antarctica is, but a kindergartener could have told you that. It ends with the hilarious line, “Antarctica, its drama will unfold!” What drama happens in Antarctica? Penguins trying to keep their eggs warm?
While there is enough quality material on Sons of Northern Darkness to create an excellent EP, it is a pretty pedestrian full length. Far too many of the songs lack quality riffs or melodies. The fact that Immortal seem content to drag out the songs well past their expiration date makes the album all the more tedious. Though this is an upgrade over Damned in Black it is still one of Immortal's weakest releases.
(Originally written deinos-logos.blogspot.com)
I'll admit it, I'm a picky person when it comes to black metal. It took me a while to find bands in the genre that I could really enjoy and listen to. With this release, Immortal have combined all of the elements of black metal that I enjoy and masterfully thrown them all together to create a truly marvelous black metal experience.
First off, this album has great vocals from Abbath. Black metal vocals are always a hit or miss for me, but Abbath has found a truly magnificent tone. He is definitely one of the stand out voices in the genre for me. One of the greatest parts of his vocals is the fact that, unlike many black metal bands, he creates a vocal tone that is enjoyable to listen to. My biggest complaint of the genre is that some of the vocals in it are so shrill to the point that they become unlistenable. Abbath makes his vocal approach deeper and less shrill, which is definitely a huge plus for this album.
As far as the instruments go, they combine well with the dark vocals of Abbath. Immortal are a rare band in the black metal genre since they also have some very addictive riffs. Songs such as "One by One" have some great musical moments and addictive guitar riffs. The band does keep to the usual black metal song style with blastbeats and fast guitar playing, but Immortal are able to slow down and let the dark atmosphere of their music be taken in by the listener. A good example this is "Tyrants". The album does contain some really great guitar solos as well. "Beyond the North Waves" has an absolutely glorious guitar solo at the end.
All in all, this is my favorite album by Immortal. This is also one of my favorite black metal albums in general. Black metal purists may not like the album as much as some listeners, but any fan of black metal really should be sure to give this album a listen.
Best Tracks: It's hard to choose, the album is very solid, but my personal favorites would have to be "One by One" and "Beyond the North Waves".
The true kings of black metal reign fully once again because they refuse to give in and let go of the talent they wholeheartedly possess. They reign this genre and seem to have progressed with each succeeding release ever since their original formation back in 1990. Though they've had lineup changes, this didn't mean that they were going to abandon their roots.
Musically, this release is a bit better then 'Damned In Black.' The production is more audible so the instruments and vocals are much clearer sounding. There seems to be some riffs very similar to 'At The Heart Of Winter' as well. Not as catchy, but still a better effort than 'Damned In Black' because of the melodic riffs with some more brutal time signatures as especially displayed on the intro entitled "One By One."
There's a lot of blast beats by Horgh to assist the more intense tempos by Abbath. Some songs feature clean style guitar work though not taking up an entire song but just a smidgen amount of them. Also, there is an atmospheric intro on the track entitled 'Antarctica.' Fit the title perfectly! Abbath definitely progressed on the guitar ever since replacing Demonaz back in 1997. His leads are more technical on this album but aren't the greatest. I find the rhythms to be more catchy then anything else.
As I've noted sound wise this album succeeds 'Damned In Black' with a clearer production by Peter Tagtgren. Abbath's vocal abilities haven't changed really based on what I've heard from previous releases. However, there's more screams by him on here. The songwriting by Abbath progressed with more technical efforts as opposed to previous releases.
The lyrical content on here was done by Demonaz. His topics reflect grimness, winter, the north, battles and winterdemons. Ever since being replaced by Abbath because of tendinitis in his arm, he stuck with Immortal fulfilling the lyrical content. That occurred after 'Blizzard Beasts' was released. Abbath was on bass/vocals from 1990-1997. He took over on the guitar and Demonaz started writing the lyrics for each album beginning on 'At The Heart Of Winter.' There are absolutely no covers on this release. Just over 50 minutes in length here and 8 solid tracks!
Immortal disbanded after this album. The bonus DVD features them live at BB King's in New York via 2005. This album is one of Immortal's most brutal even though as previously stated there were clean bits as well as quite a few melodic riffs. There really wasn't any track that didn't fail to attract my attention towards. The whole album I was impressed with. These musicians once again reflected much seniority in their songwriting style.
There is a thin line, or perhaps even a wide yet somehow taken for granted gap, between listening to a metal album and understanding it. One involves simply hitting the play button and obsessing over a few superficial details, such as the riffs that own every second they occupy, the wicked yet woeful toneless growls spouting some form of prose, or some other singular aspect of the larger picture. The other involves an active process of scrutiny that spans multiple listens, and usually involves taking into account many other separate albums by the same artist as well as those of other artists within the same genre. Often this can occur spontaneously with certain albums, because they’ve been heard after a lot of others, because they came at the tail end of a long process of evolution, and because these albums function as a stylistic culmination of everything the band has accomplished. The 7th and final installment of Immortal’s 11 year voyage through the icy aesthetics of non-aligned black metal “Sons Of Northern Darkness” is such an album.
Essentially the contents of this final offering before going on hiatus takes note of everything that began with “Battles In The North”, forsaking the first two albums only in the sense that it retains the enhanced production and extreme thrash influences that they lacked. It doesn’t really match the rabid, raw, hyper-aggressive nature of their 1995 break with traditional black metal nor the transitional “Blizzard Beasts”, nor does it stay uniformly within the longwinded epic style of “At The Heart Of Winter”. It tends slightly to resemble the longer blackened Teutonic thrash of “Damned In Black” a little more than the others, mostly as a reference point in between the blurring blast sections and the ambient/clean guitar driven interludes. The riffs continue to walk a thin line between the minimal melodic aesthetics of the 2nd wave and the technical fury of the 80s German thrash scene, coming off a little less mechanical than on the last album, but still holding that very methodical line.
The one area where this album manages to surpass previous efforts is in the lyric department. Aided in part by former axe man Demonaz, Abbath has managed to string together some really interesting pieces of epic storytelling to complement the hurricanes of sonic ice that scream out of each passing riff. “Antarctica” in particular is moving in its vivid descriptions of a place where the only differentiation seen in the terrain is the height of the next ice cloaked peak, and can be readily enjoyed even while being simply read from the booklet without the music playing. When committed to the darkened mutterings heard on the album, what emerges isn’t the typical recitative common to many black metal songs where the rhythms seem through-composed or even improvised, but instead a perfectly symmetrical scheme of poetic thoughts.
The musical evolution and progression on here, though mostly a mixing of previous efforts, breaks into new ground in one specific area. Somewhere after the very minimal lead fragments of “At The Heart Of Winter” and the Morbid Angel sounding brief lead bursts of “Damned In Black”, Abbath somehow crossed over to a sort of technical mishmash of early thrash soloing and NWOBHM style lead playing. When listening to the solo on the title song, for example, several lead ideas come in and out that bear some similarity to things that you might hear out of Eric Meyer (Dark Angel) and others comparable to Nick Bowcott during his Grim Reaper days. I think there are even a couple of fret board tapping lines weaved into these impressive though still brief lead bursts.
A prerequisite for really falling in love with this album is having an equal appreciation for every stylistic shift that the band has gone through. If you really liked the epic side of the band heard on the only album not featuring the band in full costume on the cover, the slower and almost traditional heavy metal oriented “Tyrants” and the semi-ambient, mostly mid-paced thrasher “Antarctica” are the way to go. Both of these contain beautiful sounding clean guitar sections that really portray the coldness of the setting outlined in Abbath’s fictional storybook, while the manic riff section articulate the peril that every character within it faces. Fans of the extreme, blast happy furies of the mid 90s will definitely eat up “Demonium” and “One By One”. And the fans of the old German thrash scene and the early melodic death scene that it inspired will go for just about everything else on here.
In the grand scheme of things, this album takes a shot right up the middle and elects to be all inclusive of the band’s various influences, almost like a stylistic “Best Of” album that instead contains all new material. As such, it tends to listen in terms of quality as a solid yet restrained expression of a final thought before closing the story book, at least for the time being as the band reformed a few years afterward. This is reflected through the droning yet triumphant power metal-like nature of “Beyond The North Waves”, almost like the dénouement at the end of a grand series of stories where the heroes of the winter realm have finally crushed their sworn enemy. But even if one falls more in love with the pomp and circumstance of their epic era, or the frantic climaxes of their extreme blackened era, the ending is always where the listener reflects on the accomplishment of the tale, and what was accomplished here is in a class by itself. There’s no pandering to the superficial battle between God and Satan that goes on between black and unblack metal or a specific political cause to preach to a captive audience, but the universal struggle between hero and villain, with the underlying message of individuality fixed at the helm. The staunch traditionalists often dismiss this as being a cheesy and non-cult approach, but ultimately it is the one that is easiest to understand, and can transcend the artificial boundaries set between black metal and all of the other scenes within the greater metal kingdom.
Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on January 27, 2009.
Much in the same way that listening to something intentionally artful in nature doesn't necessarily make you pretentious on sight, listening to something with a simple quality of entertainment about it doesn't necessarily mean you've committed some treachery against the very idea of art. Listening to 'Sons Of Northern Darkness' will not make you listen to Finntroll, or start shopping at Hot Topic, or whatever other dreadful scenario the more obtuse among us have concocted because the album is not a long, atonal tremolo riff from beginning to end. While, yes, listening to this release does mean that your time will be occupied by something that is not concerned with orthodox Satanism, committing suicide, or taking pains specifically NOT to worship Satan or commit suicide, you'll still be a very special person after the CD is back in its case.
While early Immortal was certainly catchy and melodic, this album is catchy and melodic in the 'bad' way, meaning someone who listens to Amon Amarth and Wintersun can put it on and enjoy themselves fully, which means you're supposed to be embarrassed by it. Unfortunately, such people can listen to it not because it resembles either of those bands, but because those catchy melodies are remarkably well written and of enduring value beyond their immediate ear candy quality. Certainly this isn't as fundamentally black metal as any of Immortal's other albums and has definite nods to late Bathory and some traditional and thrash acts, but there's still numerous goblin gurgles and blast beats just in case you were afraid of this being I Hard Part One: I Harder.
Really, the album succeeds because of those influences, and when looked at from the greater perspective of Immortal's entire career, it's a pretty fair way to end the band (or at least incarnation one of it). It's barely an album of its own as much as an elaborate thanks list to all of Immortal's influences throughout the years, and in that regard it's fairly natural that the sound of the album might not be as overwhelmingly black'n'blast as it might have been otherwise. It's certainly a better dedication album than most; after all, there's no song called 'The Day Burzum Killed Mayhem' and we know specifically what year this was released.
The album does have a distinctly melodic bent, but I don't know how this could be something new to anyone who had heard any Immortal work since, say, 'Blizzard Beasts', since they hadn't been writing 'Unsilent Storms In The North Abyss' clones for several albums by this point. This succeeds where an album like 'Damned In Black' sort of failed because the band really did pull out all the stops on this one, piling just about every good musical idea they had onto this release and coming out with something that's almost nothing but excellent track after excellent track. There are weak points in the title track and 'Demonium', but being surrounded by classic after classic makes them pretty excusable.
'One By One' is electrifying and an astounding opening volley for all those afraid this would be a Barry Manilow LP, and other fast, thrashy numbers like 'In My Kingdom Cold' are quite strong, but the real majesty lies in the slow-burning, definite tracks like 'Tyrants' and 'Beyond The North Waves'. They are essentially heavy metal tracks dressed up in corpsepaint, but is it really that consequential to one's enjoyment of the release? 'Tyrants' is an excellent headbanging number and 'Beyond The North Waves' is almost wholesale Bathory worship in the best possible way, working its handful of riffs into your brain effortlessly.
There is a sort of fundamental question in art of whether it needs to be viewed from a certain perspective to be valid or if truly great art can transcend the needs of perspective entirely to have its impact felt and message heard. If one has an absolutely raging hard-on for the latter, you probably shouldn't be involved in metal at all, because all the theatrical trappings of black metal would probably be too much for you in the first place, and you're better off listening to bands with capos on the seventh fret and scarves protecting their frail bodies from the harsh New York winds. 'Sons Of Northern Darkness' is probably the ultimate example of the need of perspective in music; not only is it something that won't be appreciated by non-metalheads, but it's something that won't even be appreciated by most actual metalheads because it dives too far into its own trappings! Despising this album should mostly be reserved for those who make very sure not to buy an Iron Maiden t-shirt lest one of those scruffy people try to talk to them at a show. It's a good farewell for an enduring band and one that deserves not a tenth as much criticism as it receives from the enlightened among us.
This album is, in my eyes, one of the biggest contenders for Immortal's crowning achievement. This will seem like blaspheme in the eyes of elitists, but this album is just thrashing all the way through. The opening track, "One by One" showcases what Abbath is capable of doing. Writing crazy as hell riffs and delivering vocal savagery. Most of the songs follow a similar formula to One by One, though that is not a bad thing. They mostly follow the, devastating intro-verse-chorus-mosh riff-intro again-outro, pattern.
Now, onto my usual critiquing method, minority then majority.
Cons - The album could put off those who are into the more unadulterated side of Immortal (DFM and Pure Holocaust), but those guys usually enjoy this as well. The drumming is very blistering, but kind of repetitive (except in the mosh riffing moments).
Pros - Almost everything. Abbath's vocal performance is at it's peak, somehow. He is still delivering his frozen tales with as much fury as a twister. His guitar playing is also at it's peak, technicality and creativity wise. He pulls some crazy awkward riffs out of his ass, and they work excellently within the context of the music. His tone is very similar to the tone on all the previous albums from At the Heart of Winter onwards, except more defined but layered to hell as well. Another pro is the mosh type riffing incorporated, which isn't super new to Immortal or anything, but Abbath wrote some sick mosh riffs for this album. He must've known this was going to be their "farewell" album, so he dug into the depths of Blashyrkh and forged some mighty riffing. A very good example of these riffs is One by One at 1:01
The bass is, as usual, inaudible to simple listening. The drumming, whilst as I said earlier was repetitive, is just insane in the groovier sections. Refer to the previous One by One time for an example. The lyrics, as usual, are above par in terms of creative plays on words. Abbath and Demonaz must've worked doubly hard on the lyrics as well.
Now, the production...the production...is, very precise. It is almost to the standard of an Andy Sneap album and this might put off some random elitists, but it is crazy good. It showcases every crisp attack of the guitar pick and every thud of the bass drum perfectly. The vocals are reasonably loud, but not so loud as to overpower the music.
The songwriting: Very concise, and straightforward unlike early Immortal releases. The riffing is standard blackened thrash, but with its own sick Abbath twist on it, providing nothing short of clear brutality. The album itself, flows easily with its own furious riffing and standard metal structure. This album exhibits the riff-oriented music Abbath had aspired to on Damned In Black, but hadn't quite mastered.
All in all, this album is a pure masterpiece, but is almost (ALMOST) a tie for the greatest Immortal release, of course won by AtHoW and Pure Holocaust, both black metal finesses. This album, whilst nothing like early Immortal shows off the melodic tremolo lines very well, giving an almost highly nostalgic feel from the gripping album.
One By One
Within the Dark Mind
This album should forge a new path for blackened ___ metal, even though it is nigh seven years old.
Sons Of Northern Darkness was scheduled to be the last Immortal album, because they spilt up after 1 year from having published it. In 2002 I was at the beginning of my long Immortal worshipping “era”, that lasts even today, but I immediately bought the limited edition of this black jewel, so I was fucking happy! When I was back home, listening to this album, I was amazed. This album, in my opinion, is far better than Damned In Black. This album features great songs from the beginning ‘till the end, always featuring some better ones obviously.
The Abyss Studios’ production, on the other side, completes an album itself great and truly inspirited. We all know the Tagtgren power behind those instruments for the production. The album starts with the fast blast beats fury of “One By One” that mixed perfectly those fast parts with icy mid paced/epic parts full of crispy, cold guitars riffs. Abbath does a great work here at vocals and guitars. Now he’s a really a solid Immortal part also for the music, a part from the always incredibly powerful vocals. His shrieks are unmistakable.
Horgh here is even superior; astonishing also for those who loved him in the previous albums. His way of playing the drums is always essential but extreme clear-cut and precise. To this, listen to the drum intro to the title track. This song features mostly up tempo with sudden epic passages in pure last Immortal style. “Tyrants” song is truly amazing for the doom tempo, the epic break made by the guitars and the acoustic, dark stop in the middle with sudden fast parts. This is the completeness made song. The refrains in each song are something you can remember easily because Immortal reached the top in songwriting here too.
The raging fury of “Demonium” is perfectly balanced on this CD with the following epic “Within The Dark Mind” where the band points on incredible heavy down tempos that don’t result boring thanks to a heavy charge of frozen riffs and battling atmospheres. “In My Kingdom Cold” is perfect for the way it puts together the cold/epic riffs and the blast beats on them. The refrain is one of the most exalting things I’ve ever heard. “Antarctica” lives in this homonym song, that is one of the greatest homage in music to that deserted, frozen land.
BUT only with the last “Beyond The North Waves” we reached and pass the top here, staying in my personal Top 3 Immortal’s songs. The tempos are majestic, pompous and heavy as an iceberg that doesn’t want to stop, floating in the cold sea. The atmospheres Immortal created here are something unbelievable for the epic feeling and the way they send me chills each time. The lyrics, this time, are about the travels by the Norsemen towards the new lands and the dangers they met (battles, storms, winds…). This is a new way of writing lyrics for Immortal and I love it.
Once again, the true Kings of the North took no prisoners with these songs and I feel to recommend this album to anyone who wants to experience the true power of this band. None shall dethrone Immortal.
Immortal’s seventh album and last one to date was the last one recorded before their 3 year split and as such it was considered for a time as being their final album. Luckily they reunited in 2006 and will release more albums. While Sons Of Northern Darkness isn’t Immortal’s best album, it certainly is solid and lives up to their standard of making excellent black metal with some variations in the style, especially on the newer albums.
Sons Of Northern Darkness is basically a unique combination of thrash metal of the German school, black metal (obviously) and viking metal, all delivered in quite an epic manner. The tempo of the tracks varies greatly between them, going from extremely high speed ones like the opener, One By One, to more mid-tempo tracks like the title track to downright slow and epic ones like Tyrants and the 8-minute-long closer, Beyond The North Waves.
As in the last two Immortal albums Abbath handles guitars and does vocals as always and, as usual, he delivers a solid performance with both of his roles. His vocals are less kvlt black metal than on the first albums but that should be expected…especially as the production is much more polished now than back in the day, courtesy of Peter Tägtgren (Hypocrisy, Pain) of Abyss studios. Riff-wise Abbath still creates that fast, technical black metal with thrash influence that he’s been doing since Demonaz stopped playing guitar for medical reasons.
However, Abbath’s only responsible in part for the band’s new signature style as Horgh is one of the best drummers in metal and basically the best drummer in black metal and the technicality of his drumming is simply amazing, especially, once again, for black metal. He especially shows this here and on many of the songs off the band’s last opus, Damned In Black.
Lyrically this deals about the usual Immortal subjects we’ve all grown to know and love. Snow, cold, fictional kingdoms (Blashyrkh), battles (in the north of course), winter, darkness, it’s all here. Hell they love cold so much that they’ve even made a little lyrical field trip to Antarctica on the seventh song of the album, which bears the name of the southern ice-covered continent. Not very Nordic but still very cool and inspired by winter…besides, a Norwegian was the first man to reach the South Pole anyway.
The album has a tendency to make the first three tracks (One By One, the title track and Tyrants) as well as the incredible final track, Beyond The North Waves, stand out compared to the other tracks on here but this isn’t to say that the others are weak because they’re not; they’re just more discreet when listening to the album from start to finish.
Immortal still manage to deliver excellent music and show tremendous songwriting abilities as they always have. While Sons Of Northern Darkness is excellent, it has several minor flaws. The aforementioned tracks that kind of blend together tend to make the album slightly boring at one point and so it requires a certain amount of patience to be enjoyed and some of those same songs might be just a little too long, but other than that it’s a very solid album. It’s definitely strongly recommended to all Immortal fans, fans of black metal and even of epic viking metal.
With questions in mind remaining of whether Immortal could prove themselves with their finale opus, Immortal returned in 2002 with Sons of Northern Darkness. Not only does this album show a convicting return to their signature style of frost-bitten, winter-obsessed brand of black metal; it's an improvement of the tedious experimentations with death/thrash stylings on Damned in Black and the progressive, atmospheric stylings of At the Heart of Winter. This album could easily serve as a great introduction for those new to the band, but also condenses all of Immortal's sounds over the years into one album.
While certainly not as legendary as the classic albums such as Pure Holocaust or Blizzard Beasts, SoND certainly holds its own and may very well be the essential album of Immortal's recent material. A triumphant return is made to the charging, war-like rhythms of Damned in Black, but forgoes the more death-metal styled aesthetic of that album. At the same time, the band hearken back to the powerful, driving, blurry blastfests of old that made them so revered. Really, it's a melting pot of every Immortal album; "Tyrants" and "Antarctica" shows the plodding, mid-paced anthemic side of the band, complete with extended clean guitar breaks that made At the Heart of Winter a success. There are some rippers like "Demonium" and "In My Kingdom Cold" that will bring back memories of the furious but ultimately epic Battles in the North, while maintaining a bit more melodicism than what you would expect. There are some numbers like "Within the Dark Mind" that show the new and somewhat darker side of the band; the song structures are very nonlinear, but still very focused with a display of semi-technical riff work. Musically, the band are like a well-oiled machine; each note is delivered with the utmost precision and tightness, something which we don't see from many black metal bands.
As a vocalist, Abbath has never really broken ground on any Immortal album; it's always been the same grim, deadpan reptilian croak, but maintains a surprising amount of clarity and conviction. Sons of Northern Darkness is no different; it's typical Abbath and nothing more. At least he's consistent, yeah? Lyrically, it's about the same; winter, ravens, battles, mountains, typical Immortal stuff. While they certainly don't break ground on these levels, most of us (myself included) prefer it that way. As a guitarist, though, this is probably Abbath's best work. Flurrying tremolo riffs are still the order of the day, as it always has been. The crushing opener "One by One" balances the tremolo melodies with palm-muted power chords to create a call-to-arms atmosphere, and "In My Kingdom Cold" brings back to desolate, bitter feel of At the Heart of Winter. There are still plenty of atmospheric clean guitars, and the pounding closer "Beyond the North Waves" makes one of the best uses of them. Some ear-catching solos appear every now and then, usually to heighten the atmosphere; "Beyond the North Waves" uses a fitting melodic solo, while others use more chaotic, shredding types. Overall, the guitar work here is more melodic than some will like, but it all works out for the band when all is said and done.
Horgh's drums hit an apex here; due to the increasingly technical songwriting, Horgh upped the ante on how far he could push himself. There are some moments which rely on the ever-present and obliterating blastbeat, while others use slower tempos driven by fast double bass. The title track in particular stands out; Horgh toggles merciless thrash beats with jarring time changes and technical fills, and pulls it off extremely smoothly. No moments of total double bass/blastbeat overkill really stick out, so things in the drum department have also gotten more dynamic.
The production standard on this album is incredible, courtesy of Abyss studios. Both the the guitars and the bass maintain the cold, spacious sound of old, but with a sparkling new sheen that fits the new standard of the music without being too polished. Horgh's drum pound and bludgeon, particularly the bass drum and snare, which is a bit higher in the mix than before, offering a bit of clarity. Abbath's vocals resonate and echo in their solitary moments, topping things off with the signature desolate and empty winter atmosphere that Immortal are renowned for.
I would highly recommend this album for newbies to Immortal or even to black metal; some old-school fans may not find this appealing, but it's hard to deny that Immortal went out with a huge bang.
Highlights: "Tyrants," "Demonium," "In My Kingdom Cold," "Beyond the North Waves."
This was Immortal’s final album in their illustrious black metal career and, like all the albums preceding it, saw more fantastic innovation from the gods of Blashyrkh. It adopts a heavier style than the previous two albums, Damned in Black and At the Heart of Winter, which went in less traditional more epic musical direction. Sons of Northern Darkness is a bold return to Immortal’s earlier and simpler black metal, but with slower and more melodic songs. It is a brilliant end to Immortal’s long reign as the kings of Black Metal, being essentially a compromise between meat and potatoes black metal and epic, melodic black metal.
The album is typified by the first two songs, ‘One by One’ and ‘Sons of Northern Darkness’, both of which are fast and brutal songs laden with blast beats and raw screams. Abbath’s vocals have never been the same is in their mid 90’s heyday but in Sons of Northern Darkness he performs brilliantly, with a savage, guttural voice that seems perfectly suited to the lyrics, which are the typical Immortal fare of battles, grimness and ice. There are some memorable lyrics in these early songs, such as the passionate cry of “Fly throughout the sky, set fire to the land, fly throughout the sky, Sons of Northern Darkness!” and Abbath’s chilling scream of “One by one….. We took your lives!” The first two songs feature the full repertoire of black metal songwriting, with savage, brutal drumming from the mighty Horgh and simple but powerful guitar riffs. Abbath and Horgh share the songwriting duties on this album, which is noticeable in the more varied drum sections. These songs set the scene for the album and are filled with fantastic moments, such as Abbath’s cackle about halfway through ‘One by One’ and the blinding drum solo at the beginning of ‘Sons of Northern Darkness’.
The album continues to be of interest after those superb opening tracks, but doesn’t quite manage to recapture the power of them. There are some slower tracks, such as ‘Tyrants’ and ‘In my Kingdom Cold’ which, despite their length, never become boring. One noticeable aspect of the album which fans of early Immortal will discover is that the guitars are much more clear, in the vein of the previous two albums, and they manage to convey a very wintery aura, which is no doubt the desired effect. In Sons of Northern Darkness Immortal has also opted for a return to their typical bass style, the harsh droning sound which most black metal bands choose for their bass. In Damned in Black, the predecessor to this album, they experimented with slap bass, which sounded very odd in combination with the roaring guitars, black vocals and pounding drums. Iscariah on bass, however, plays far more familiar bass lines on this album.
Sons of Northern Darkness is undoubtedly a superb album but it is not without its faults. Prominent among these are the lack of any real innovation in the songwriting. This is forgivable, given the quality of most of the album. What is unforgivable is the final two tracks, which put a sour note on a fantastic album. ‘Antarctica’ is a laughably cheesy song, whose lyrics just go beyond the joke. It features Abbath growling about glaciers, icy birds, icy water and the south, which is a big change for the usually north obsessed Immortal. It should never have been put on the album. The final song, Beyond the Northern Shadows, while a welcome return to northern themes, is a long, slow and tiresome song.
In spite of these mediocre songs, Sons of Northern Darkness is a blast and a fantastic return to harsh black metal for the Norweigan giants. It has some truly memorable and brilliant songs and ends Immortal’s career on a high note. I would highly recommend this as a beginner’s black metal album, though it should still appeal to hardened fans of the genre.
If you had a music career, would you know when it ended? Did you think your last album made a lasting impression to the world? The sons of Blashyrk sure did. After this was released, Immortal already called it quits. If production after every album becomes greater, your skills exceed a new level, and your thoughts reach its peak, why would you discard it all? Everything that led up to this release was for this release, no less.
Overall since Battles In The North, Immortal dropped the raw Black Metal sound and sharpened into a thrashier group. Horgh’s drumming made all the difference since his entrance, never missing a beat. We can agree that he outnumbers Abbath in all aspects of drumming, so it was a fine move for him to stick with this record. Check out his best on here with “Antarctica” and “Beyond The North Waves”. Abbath himself doesn’t let his looks fool you, as he can scream and yell pretty damn well. He is also responsible for the powerful riffs heard therein throughout the album, most notably the chuggers on “One By One”, the title track, and “Antarctica”.
Lastly, is Iscariah, the lamest member Immortal ever hired in terms of appearance. However, his puny fingers pack such a force that when he plucks, your ears will rumble because they’re so damn powerful. Just hear his moves on “Tyrants” and “Antarctica”, especially when the latter hits 5 minutes in. Literally, this little guy is truly a meteor, ready to make a crater in your brain. Combined with Horgh’s never-fail drumming and Abbath’s heavy-yet-catchy riffs and solos, Sons Of Northern Darkness makes for one (pun coming up) immortal album.
If you haven’t already guessed, “Antarctica” is my favorite track. While about the southern hemisphere for some reason, this track carries all the traits from previous Immortal albums. The frostbitten winds, riffs Mighty Ravendark would approve, the pulverizing battery, an insane amount of bass, and the fucking awesome last minute and twenty seconds of the song fuses into one of the best tracks Immortal ever recorded. Take my word for it…
I really don’t have to bring up the lyrics because all them, written by Demonaz himself, are worthy of being written. There is no denying that this album is heavily dependent on guitars, which is always very Metal if you ask me. Personally, I think Immortal went out pretty well, still on the verge of reaching a large, trans-Atlantic audience. Besides the laughable photos, Immortal has been resurrected; and they are headlining. If you’re a fan of dark and heavy stuff, this is your ticket into the kingdom.
Just like it says in the insert, Immortal sure closed their career in greatness, this album is nothing short of awesome, MUCH better than the previous album (Damned in Black), this album actually sounds finished, unlike Damned, most of the material on this album is slow/midpaced, at times being totally thrashy, they know how to mix it up, the production is typical Peter Tagtgren, that should tell you the production is great, it actually reminds me of the production on one of Hypocrisy's albums (Catch 22), although a shitty album there, the production on this can be compared to that.
The album kicks off with "One By One" Which is one of the best on the album, it starts out thrashy as all fuck, with great catchy riffs, and just listen to those blast beats!, at about 1:10, theres a wicked cool breakdown, which has a very nice flow to it, lots of riffs in this song, and great lyrics as well, "Sons of Northern Darkness" Follows suit, opening with more great riffs, and Abbath's Immortal scream, no pun intended there, this song is pretty fast throughout, does slow down for the break though, which has another very cool riff, and then you'll find a KILLER solo by Abbath, this guy can play for sure, "Tyrants" Seems to be loved by fans, and it should be, it's slow, catchy, great lyrics, and great chorus, not much else to say about it though.
"Demonium" Starts out right off, with Abbath letting you know he's still there, and at 20 seconds in, you're hit with a fast as fuck heavy riff that just rips and tears, and more insane blast beats, all put together well, and the break, is just heavy as fuck, not headbanging is not an option, "Within The Dark Mind" Is just another good song, not much stands out about it enough to write about it though, "In My Kingdom Cold" However, deserves me writing about it, opening with a fast thrashy riff, and Abbath comes in, and takes command, this song is insanely catchy and cool...or maybe cold, HMM, theres so many riffs to be found in this song, and the break at about 3:41, is just HEAVY AS ALL FUCK, like being hit with a sledgehammer , great riff, "Antarctica" Opens similar to the next track, you'll see what I mean, but then the riff comes in, this is just another good song, not nothing special here.
"Beyond The North Waves" Opens with a nice acoustic melodic guitar, with the sound of water and glaciers, setting the mood for the song, then at 55 seconds in, the hypnotizing SLOW riff comes in, and carries the song, as it is used pretty much until the break, it is very catchy also, and Abbath comes in, this song just makes me want to grab a sword, as it is very viking-ISH, mainly due to the lyrics and the riffs, a great way to close a great album.
This is my second Immortal album, first was "At The Heart of Winter" And I loved that, so I figured get this one, to see what they did before they broke up, I wish they hadn't now, but this album is great, all the songs are good, but as I stated, some are better than others, if you like Black Metal, you should check this out, it is really a journey.
When the trend of corpse paint and axe wielding black metal heroes is seemingly out of vogue, along come Immortal and amplify the whole visual experience with even more ridiculous facial, expressions and ludicrous shin pads and spiked armlets. Don’t you just love em? Immortal are one of the few Norwegian Black Metal bands to survive the long haul into the twenty first century and claim they never had any part in the murderous beginnings of the genre. No doubt the past has helped to shape the future and yet Immortals music has always embraced a uniqueness and veracity that has held them in good stead over the years. From the awkward 1992 debut ‘Diabolical Full Moon Mysticism’ to the classic ‘Pure Holocaust’ release of ’93 where the cold blasting grimness of Immortals sound was honed into a timeless Black Metal masterpiece.
The following ‘Battles in the North’ and less effective ‘Blizzard Beasts’ were likewise incomprehensible works of speed and northern darkness. It was with the 1999 release of ‘At the Heart of Winter’ that gave a new side to the band. The ferocity was tuned down in favour of slower songs and this transpired on the last opus ‘Damned in Black’ which I thought was an inferior album to ‘At the Heart of Winter’.
So now immortal return on a new label and a new album with the gloriously title ‘Sons of the Northern Darkness’. Now, the slower elements of the previous two releases have been employed to great effect within the new material and a greater depth has been achieved.
The ear ripping vocals are still prominent, as are the chopping guitar riffs that accentuate the bands individual sound. What does strike you almost immediately is the crisp production and accessibility of the songs. I would cite Bathory as a heavy comparison an that ultimately brings into play the Viking side to the Black Metal genre. A good example can be found on the track ‘Beyond the Northern..’ as it exhibits such strong Bathory tendencies it could have been lifted from Hammerheart. The strength of this album rests not in its pioneering machinations but in the sheer quality of the song craft. There is nothing spectacularly new or ground breaking but that cannot deter he listener from the brilliance of the compositions. From the obligatory blasting sections to the more dominant mid-paced music that is swathed in elaborate guitar work and refined vocals arrangements. From the pounding ‘Tyrants’ to the rustic ‘Antarctica’ this album can do little wrong.
2002 was the year I really started getting into the more extreme styles of metal (I got into metal rather late. I was 18 in 2000). This was the first album of Immortal's that I got and I thought it was the greatest thing I ever heard, well until I heard their other albums. This would rank as Immortal's best known release as they really peaked at this point of their careers, sad they would split-up a little over a year after this album was released as their style of black metal could have gotten those mainstream Dimmu Borgir and Emperor fans to see that there is much better black metal out there. Yes Immortal were not as "tr00" as they were when they first started out but being a semi-mainstream band would have helped black metal as a genre in the long run (distribution-wise and getting more people into the underground). But that's just my opinion on it.
As for the album. The first half can compare to the best songs on At the Heart of Winter while the second half can compare to the best songs on Damned in Black. Which is kind of weird seeing as how the second half has a more epic and lengthier style like on At the Heart of Winter. One By One starts this album off and what a thrasher it is. Solid riffing and possibly Demonaz best lyrics. Tyrants is the first epic song on the album and I really like that main riff. It's slower than most Immortal riffs but still solid. Demonium would not be out of place on either Battles in the North or Blizzard Beasts as it's the fastest song Immortal wrote during their blackened thrash era.
The second half is longer (each of the 4 songs 7 minutes or longer) and a bit of a let down compared to the first half. No song is bad just not on the level of One By One or Demonium. In My Kingdom Cold and Beyond the North Waves are the best of the second half, especially In My Kingdom Cold. Nice lyrics and great drumming courtesy of Horgh.
This album would be the final chapter of Immortal. Iscariah would continue playing for Wurdulak and then join Horgh in Hypocrisy. Abbath and Demonaz whereabouts are unknown. It would rank as my fifth favorite Immortal album which is saying a lot as to how great they've been. Sons of Northern Darkness is one of the better albums of 2002 and a must for blackened thrash fans. With this final album Immortal ride out of the black metal scene triumphantly and with few peers.
A band that can be associated with aiding in the beginning of the Black Metal movement, Immortal stormed the fronts of the Black Metal scene for years. Over time, they released album after album, which, as they progressed, would receive flack for not sounding "Black", like they used to back during Diabolical Fullmon Mysticism and Battles in the North. This band should not be criticized or put down for changing though, for in the end, they ended up as a band that transcended their crude labeling and were able to push the envelope of the Black Metal genre to areas bands during their time could never dream of.
Immortal has also proven that you can change for the better and still keep an identifiable sound. Harsh vocals, fast, compelling riffs, near flawless bass work, and drumming that is always on key and brutal reign supreme on every album. The unique part about Immortal, and their last album, Sons of Northern Darkness, is how they performed these parts differently from before.
Sons of Northern Darkness is not perfect though. It is a redefined sound that has been repolished through years of work and changes, taking parts from previous albums that the band thought made their music what it was and combining it with other essences. While earlier albums might be better in certain essences, it is with their last few albums that you can truly capture the sense and feeling of Immortal through their music. A big reason behind this is because their production quality was MUCH better than their earlier work.
Sons of Northern Darkness is an excellent album from an excellent band. Immortal showed the world that Black Metal wasn't just about poor recording quality, or slower riffs; you could have melodic riffs, you could have excellent production work. They showed the world how you could start off with something, and over time, create something almost completely new.
They did more than help pioneer a new musical movement, they redefined it.
Good grief. I like Immortal’s older work a great deal, but until recently I had sense enough to avoid their newer music.
But, sadly, curiosity got the better of me and I forced myself to listen to this abomination. It was worse than I expected. Ah well. At least sitting with detached wonderment and marveling at how utterly worthless this disc is has provided me with some mild entertainment.
Back on “At the Heart of Winter” Immortal pulled off a reasonable fusion of icy black metal riffing and a heavy metal vibe... surely a lesser art than the flowing melodic black metal of “Pure Holocaust” and not really my usual cup of tea overall, but pretty classy nevertheless. It struck a nice balance between overt accessibility and their old style while retaining its artistry. I pretty much like it.
Here, that balance is gone – this is all overt accessibility and zero artistry, and about as good an example of why rock sensibilities mix poorly with modern black metal as any. Everything that made the band’s best music distinct and creative has been tossed aside… they now fully reside in the gray, indistinct netherworld between modern “extreme metal” aesthetics and following heavy metal and thrash formulas from two decades ago, a netherworld also occupied by bands like Cradle of Filth and Dimmu Borgir. But this doesn’t have keyboards or gothic elements, which makes it “more pure”, I guess, at least for people that don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.
The album’s highlight is likely the apparent Bathory “tribute” near the end of the album, “Beyond the North Waves”, which is still utterly plastic and feeble, but amusing, at least.
Anyhow, if you demand nothing more from your music than the familiar comfort of well-worn songwriting clichés and “being metal”, you might enjoy this. Personally, I have a hard time thinking of many things I'd less rather listen to. Go buy a mainstream pop album before you'd buy this: it might be a shallow, trendy, one-dimensional unoriginal money-grab, but at least it'll be a shallow, trendy, one-dimensional unoriginal money-grab written by professional-quality hacks instead of one slapped together carelessly for an undiscerning “underground” audience. If all you want is simple entertainment, might as well go all-out rather than piss away your money on middlestream dinosaurs like Immortal circa 2002.
In short, generic and dumbed-down; an embarrassing epitaph to a once-great band.
They did it again. With this, the third masterpiece in a row after the epic, mighty "At The Heart Of Winter" (still my favourtie Immortal album along with "Pure Holocaust") and the rawer and thrashier "Damned In Black", Immortal leave no room for questioning their decision of continuing their metal saga after Demonaz's forced parting of ways. Different but inequivocably still strong with their original power, the Northern Metal Demons unleash another rock solid symphony of might and grimness carved in the perennial ice of Blashyrkh, with a title, "Sons Of Nothern Darkness", which is both a look back to the roots - those bold roots which were never forgotten nor betrayed - and a war cry echoing far through new cold terriories.
For the first time ever in the Immortal discography, this full length has been conjured by the very same line-up that forged its predecessor; thus the battle formation still consists of Abbath on both guitar and vocal duties, Iscariah on bass and Horgh on drums. This stability and solid partnership did certainly have a part in building such an amazing musicianship and alchemy - which however the previous efforts didn't lack anyway. "Sons Of Northern Darkness" pushes the aggressive spirit of "Damned In Black" further and takes back some epic elements from "At The Heart Of Winter", mingling them with the classic Immortal feel and power and the band's unending will to expand its musical horizons. The results will inevitably blow us all away.
"One by One" takes you by storm, right from the first second, not even an intro or some weird sounds to prepare you: fierce guitars stab you from all around, Horgh's beats pound you restlessly and Iscariah's bass summons a vibe which makes your bones shake. Just as you think that it can't get any more lethal, Abbath's voice slashes in. The perfect Abyss Studios production forged the steel of the warrior's weapons once again - expect no chance to escape. However, this is not violence for violence's sake: there are blastless (does such a word exist anyway?) breaks to avoid repetitivity and a fantastic thrashy interlude for a guaranteed headbanging session.
The title track is next, opening with a speedy drum intro upon which the verse riff is build upon; this is another fast track but less heavy than the opener, with a more mid-tempoed middle section friezed by beautiful melodies before the fast rhythm sets in again.
"Tyrants" has quickly become a fan favourite, and it's easy to understand why. One of the most diverse and unique Immortal songs ever, it plods along with a slow, crushing vibe like an ancient war march (imagine Burzum's "En Ring Til aa Herske a whole lot heavier) built upon some seriously cool riffs and enriched by a chillong middle scetion, a haunting clean guitar which breaks into a smashing riff featuring insane double bass from Horgh.
"Deamonium" brings the speed back into the picture, unfortunately (at least for me) taking it a it too far and ending up sounding chaotic in an annoying way despite some good ideas and an amazing display of technique; still a pretty enjoyable number, with a few good headbanging moments.
The second half of the album is where the "At The Heart Of Winter" elements become more apparent. "Within the Dark Mind" is a very good mid tempo ride through the desolate yet beautiful northern landscapes, fitting very well the lyrics about being at one with the mightiness of untamed nature.
"In My Kingdom Cold" continues the thought but takes it even further in terms of songqwriting and arrangements, showcasing yet another brilliant performance from Horgh and very well thought guitar passages.
The final two tracks, however, are the real heirs of Immortal's most epic album. "Antarctica" (how come Immortal wrote a song about the Southern hemisphere?!) opens with a creepy keyboard intro which in turn becomes the excellent first riff; the verses kick in after a very good and lengthy instrumental part. The song becomes slower and darker towards the end, a real jigsaw of great musical ideas held together by Immortal's mastery.
Finally... "Beyond the North Waves", a song which won my heart as one of Immortal's best tunes ever. Words can't say how atmospheric, entrancing and most importantly POWERFUL this creation is. Opening with an eerie clean guitar part, the song becomes a slow, pounding symphony featuring great lyrics about the feats of the Viking people; the plodding rhythm makes you feel like you are sailing on one of those dragonships on a dark, misty sea, while the simple yet enthralling riffs really fill you with raw energy as a warrior longing for the fight. The song gets speedier halfway through, becoming just even more angry, and then goes back into the fantastic main riff, this time coupled with a guitar solo which I just can label perfect... not perfect technically, maybe, but perfect meaning that no other solo could fit those riffs better. It is built on the emeotions conjured by the song rather than upon the notes themselves, if it makes any sense. Listen for it yourself.
The only thing I can say at this point is GET THIS ALBUM. Seriously. You need to experience this. If you don't, it's all your loss.
*this is a reaction after the first listen*
This is the first real black metal album that I actually like. Before that I'd heard The Kovenant - Nexus Polaris, Morbid Angel - Covenant and Emperor - In The Nightside Eclipse and I hated all of them, so when I found out that Immortal were black metal, I was quite reluctant to listen to them, but I did anyways.. and I'm not dissapointed. Of course, it's grim, cold, brutal, chaotic, it's got harsh vocals and what not, but I actually like it this time around. The difference is that the chaos is organized (heh... yes) and you can actually recognize the guitars as guitars (in contrary to *cough* other bands..) .. not to mention that this cd has got riffs varying from good to awesome. Then you also have the drumming which is absolutely unreal (you think Jaska Raatikainen from Children Of Bodom is fast? Try this one..) and the atmospheric background in some parts of some songs, which actually works and I really didn't expect that. Highlights are Within The Dark Mind and Beyond The North Waves (the latter truly functions perfectly as a closing track). There aren't many solos and I don't really find them worth writing home about, but the truth is that they really fit in well with the music, it's an extra layer to the music, so to speak. In metal, you quite often hear the rhythm guitar change its role from leading the music to supporting the appearing guitar solo, but that doesn't happen here and it's quite remarkable.
This is not the best music I've ever heard and it didn't make my jaw drop or make me spontaneously start headbanging while giving the horns to my cd player, but to me it has proved that black metal isn't total crap and that in its self is quite an accomplishment. Now I hope I'll be able to let this grow on me :-/
Sons of Northern Darkness is the album that got me into black metal. Now, with a year of constant listening to the disc, I can safely say that its still one of the best albums I've ever heard. Yes, I've heard Pure Holocaust, and yes, I've heard At The Heart Of Winter. I'd give them similar ratings.
First off, the argument regarding Immortal's position in the "true black metal" genre will not be discussed. Why should anyone care? With that said, "Sons Of Northern Darkness" will blow you away and leave you with chills. The album has the aggression of Battles In The North, the technicality of Damned In Black, and the epic atmosphere of At The Heart Of Winter. The lyrics are perhaps Demonaz's best, reflecting a sense of nordic honor and strength that takes the listener on a journey into an ancient past filled with conquest and splendor.
The opening track, One By One, is definitely in the top 3 of songs off this release. One By One greets you to some of the most brutal riffing that Abbath has ever achieved, coupled with some intense drumming by Horgh. This song shows that Immortal hasn't lost their touch; the band's musical prowess is in fact even more refined than ever before. The sound on this album is absolutely massive. Tatgren did good work here, and although the production isn't as raw as ATHOW, it is still gripping, and well suited for Immortal's icy atmosphere.
The title track follows, and is in the same vein as One By One. More great drums and driving riffs. The third track, Tyrants, seems to be a favorite among fans. The song is definitely a departure from standard Immortal work: its a slow, crunching, sinister anthem that marches on like dark armies from the north, slaughtering everything in its path. Tyrants is simply cold and relentless, and its a bold but successful experiment. The slower part at 2:50 is notable, followed by a chilly acoustic interlude that's moving to say the least. When the riffs kick back in with furious double-bass, you'll be giving the horns at your CD player every time. Tyrants paints a dark, grim atmosphere that will leave you wanting more. And more you'll get...
Demonium is a great aggressive track, and it reminds me of something from Pure Holocaust with the fast yet epic riff segments. A perfect middle-track to follow up Tyrants. Within The Dark Mind, track five, is a good demonstration that Immortal lives on still, despite losing the mighty Demonaz. Abbath's axework is not to be underestimated.
In My Kingdom Cold is a superb piece, and is perhaps even better than Tyrants. Ominous, varied and insane fucking riffs swirl throughout the song, and the breakdown at 3:42 pulverizes. Top-notch songwriting here.
Antarctica is a mix of escalating epic and baleful riffs that flow beautifully. Its almost as if this song was written to be the prelude to the album's crowning achievement, Beyond The North Waves. Beyond The North Waves is a magnificent opus. To say that its epic is an understatement. This song represents pure Bathory worship in Immortal's best form. The driving rhythms perfectly capture the powerful and noble spirit of the Icelandic sagas: "the saga of the warriors from northland, speaks of greatness and strength." Immortal echoes back to a greater time here, a time of great men that cannot be forgotten. (I also must mention Abbath's awesome solo.) Something is wrong if you don't move your head to this song; this is some of the most compelling and inspired work Immortal has done in their career. Very ambitious, and a perfect closure to this fine release.
Many critics lambast Immortal for being some kind of shallow concept band who only thrive on aesthetics. Not true: this album shows that Immortal's true strength lies not in their corpsepaint and armor, but in their sheer ability to manipulate mood and atmosphere. They are masters at guiding a listener's emotions, and Sons Of Northern Darkness is as good an example as any.
If you are a black metal elitist concerned that this album might suck, or if you've never heard black metal before, or if you've heard black metal (but just not Immortal,) you NEED to pick up this album. You won't be disappointed.
Immortal deserves all respect for being one of the most consistent Black Metal bands around, and for being one of the only ones that has been more or less accepted into the mainstream metal scene without undergoing any major changes music wise.
Every new album manages to progress a little further without betraying their roots or opting for a more commercial sound, and this is no different on their latest release Sons of Northern Darkness.
The band manages to combine both the more melodic elements from Damned in Black and At The Heart of Winter with the intensity of a Battles in the North and succeeds wonderfully in bringing forth what is probably the heaviest album they made in recent years. Abbath?s very recognizable growls perfectly fit the dark, wintry atmosphere that the entire record transcends, and a special mention must go to drummer Horgh, who manages to keep even the mid-tempo songs varied and interesting. Finally it has to be said also, that this is the best produced Immortal album so far, certainly outclassing a lot, if not most other Black Metal bands around.
Favorite songs include the furious trashing opening song One By One, the titeltrack Sons Of Northern Darkness (with an incredible catchy refrain I must say), the brilliant, epic In My Kingdom Cold and the closing song Beyond The Northwaves, which reminds me a lot of Bathory during the Hammerheart/Twilight of the Gods period, and since I?m comparing anyway, it also has to be said that Tyrants brings forth memories of Celtic Frost.
One small negative point has to go to the cover artwork though, while still being more than passable, I can?t help but think that it would have been a lot better if they just left off their personal pics and used the background instead.
All in all, this is one hell of a killer album which is definitely worth getting, and if you?re not normally interested in Black Metal, give this one a shot, as it?s much more than being just another standard Black Metal album, you?ll be pleasantly surprised.