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At The Heart of Immortal - 86%

Aurora Rider, May 23rd, 2019

After two mediocre and another two more than just bad albums, naturity time had come for Immortal. Finally, a great album was released in 1999, one that would later become one of the most important releases in black metal history. What I am talking about is ''At The Heart of Winter'', the absolute highlight of this band's discography and a record every metalhead has heard about and should listen to, since it is an exceptional musical offering in general.

''Withstand The Fall of Time'' is the first song one can enjoy here. And thankfully, it is instantly made clear that things are going to be more serious this time. The rifts are not as repetitive as in the past, yet they still bear the grim coldness the band became known for. Fast and catchy, they manage to create a really aggressive sound. However, atmsopshere is just as present, with the mediocre sound quality doing its magic when it comes to giving the sound depth. Don't get me wrong, mixing and mastering are not terrible like in the band's past releases. The general sound quality is just as low as it should be in order for a dark musical background to be created. Moreover, drumming seems to have become much more professional this time, with Horgh doing a really fine job. Not really something that innovative, but for sure much more well-played than in ''Blizzard Beasts''.

Besides the great rifts and the balance between atmosphere and power, what really makes this album so good is the big improvement in Abbath's vocals. The vocalist of Immortal no more seems like he tries to sound evil in ''At The Heart of Winter''. I was unable to spot any part where he pronounced the words as if he had some weird accent, which is a big step forward. In addition, there are some pretty well-written bass lines in this record. Alongside the necessary use of sound effects and acoustic interludes, they also play a key role in the creation of the unparalleled atmosphere I mentioned before. And note that besides this grim aura, there is still much variety, with slower tracks followed by faster ones and vice versa.

To sum up, I can easily say this is a great album and one of the best releases of the 90s, at least when it comes to black metal. It has all the elements this kind of music became known for and it is balanced and well-written. Well, maybe the lyrics are still pretty pointless, but I guess that's Immortal... Recommended to anyone who likes metal.