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Approaching Colder Times - 94%

Caleb9000, March 11th, 2016

During the 1990s, black metal was stirring up a whole lot of controversy, due to Norwegian church burnings, murder and satanic imagery, adding to the occult themes. However, one band that took a position away from it all was Immortal. They wrote lyrics about their own fictional world that was known as Blashyrkh (starting from 1995's "Battles In The North). Before that, they wrote about the winter, ice and snow, as well as battle. The raw element to all of this was Demonaz' style of songwriting. It was fast, abrasive and dark. His guitar work had surely unsettled some people. But later on, he fell upon a most unfortunate fate of getting acute tendinitis in his arm. He was unable to continue playing with the band. Therefore, he had no interest in writing music with them. Which is understandable. So, music-writing duties were left to Abbath. This was the first album that he'd written the music to.

When compared to the band's previous work, this album contains songwriting that is much more focused on epicness. The music sounds a bit more melodic and it tries to make the music as big as possible. It succeeds in making an epic album, but it is also badass. I consider the two to be different when they are compared. Epic can be cheesy and just flat-out stupid, at times. While this is definitely a little bit cheesy, it does still manage to be one very enjoyable album. Also, the previous albums seemed much more like they were revolving around the drumming, which was very, very fast. But this is more riff-oriented and focuses more on melody than rhythm. Or at least, when compared to their last four albums. That doesn't mean that this isn't still very fast, but it is expanded in other areas.

The album's opener, "Withstand the Fall of Time" is a highlight for me, just like everyone else. It has some very enjoyable opening riffs, along with the atmosphere within it, as well as the rest of the music. The solos on the track are absolutely memorable. It focuses on making some amazing riffs (I'd still give it a chance, before steering clear of it, due to the fact that there are cool riffs in the solo sections) and it fully succeeds. The follow-up to it, "Solarfall" was a very riff-oriented track and it had an amazing epic sound. The riffs are not all that thick, but they don't need to be. They have a hell of a structure that makes them satisfying, nonetheless. I am also a huge fan of "Where Dark and Light Don't Differ", due to its large sound and very satisfying atmosphere. Great riffs and solos, galore on this track. There is also some of the best musicianship on it. The instruments (as well as the vocals) all play their part in this track, each and every single one of them. The title track has a MASSIVE atmosphere and sound, as well as a great level of musicianship. With a beast of a chorus and a great solo to top it all off, this song delivers a lot that you can crave from a black metal song with an epic sound.

The guitar riffing, as I have said before, is absolutely masterful. Immortal has crafted together some great riffs in all of their music, but I prefer the riffs on this album over any other. It goes well with the rapid tempos, as well as the slower to mid-paced ones that this album throws at them. So rarely is it that guitar riffs can do that, without changing themselves all too much, or just being the exact same riff. Here, they give similar feelings and create similar moods, but they still have variety within their limits. It all comes together to make a force that is to be reckoned with and I would say that there isn't quite enough rhythm work that is based on the melody of music that is able to really do that. That is the reason why the bands that actually do this are so special to me.

The only two things that could have been altered for the better on this album are a small amount of the instrumental work and merely a couple of lyrics. Some of the instrumental work on the album can just become a bit forgettable and boring. There were a few moments where Abbath just seemed to have a big urge to get studio time over with, for the day and just pick random music out of his ass. As for the particular lyrics that I've just referenced, well...

"Tragedies blows at horizon. (Norwegian-English mistake, I guess)
We fight as one.
Tragedies blows at horizon.
The battle rages on".

Yeah... it can get a little dull, at times. But this isn't a very good representation of the lyrics on the album and there were just a few that could've been improved upon.

This is overall, an album that is a masterpiece in its genre and definitely not something that can be called "worthless noise" by people who do not exactly know extreme metal all that well. It focuses quite a lot on atmosphere, epicness and melody and it isn't exactly what some do consider to exist as "satanic filth", lyric-wise. Being the biggest standout in Immortal's discography, in my opinion, they haven't lost the power that was with them after the loss of Demonaz, but gained more in other areas. Abbath is a better guitarist than a bassist and certainly better than Demonaz, as well as a superior songwriter. Whether you are a fan of black metal (or extreme metal in general) or not, this is an album that you may be able to greatly enjoy.