Register Forgot login?

© 2002-2019
Encyclopaedia Metallum

Best viewed
without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
or higher.

Privacy Policy

Exposed to the forces of nature - 87%

Felix 1666, November 6th, 2015
Written based on this version: 1999, CD, Osmose Productions (Picture disc)

"Blizzard Beasts", the predecessor of the here described album, had shown a band that had idiotically taken the course of self-destruction. I have heard somewhere that Norwegians who try to copy the sound of a North American formation are still Norwegians, for better or for worse. But maybe I am wrong. Anyway, it was time for a drastic change. Immortal had obviously realised that they were driving down the road to nowhere. Consequently, "At the Heart of Winter" was nothing less than a radical (and absolutely necessary) turnaround. The guys from the top of Europe left no stone unturned and the surprising result was outstanding.

The most important modification - how could it be otherwise - affects the compositional arrangements. Instead of confusing the listener with crude and obscure song patterns, the band puts the focus on clearly defined, majestic melodies in order to deliver accessible song structures. This does not mean that the songs lack of brusqueness. The instinct for vigorous guitar lines ennobles every part of the songs, irrespective of the degree of harshness. Better still, the melodic sequences fraternise with gruff outbursts in an amazingly harmonious manner. Immortal combine the different elements with great ease, although the aura of the tracks does not indicate any kind of lightness. The guttural vocals sound more masculine than on the catastrophic predecessor and convey the feeling of inevitability and doggedness. But the sound works as a whole while creating an ice-cold atmosphere. It matches with the fascinating artwork of the album that also has nothing in common with the unimaginative picture of "Blizzard Beasts". By the way, it is the only successful cover of the band up till now, apart perhaps from "All Shall Fall". Stop making silly band photos, deliver more fantastic paintings.

The six songs are nothing less than - sorry for using this trite term - frostbitten monuments. Their massiveness and coldness leave no doubt that this one is exposed to - another trite term, I am inconsolable - true Norwegian black metal, even though its configuration differs from the early albums of this genre in a remarkable manner. For example, "Tragedy Blows at Horizon" demonstrates that calm parts do not ruin the mightiness of a song as long as they provide the necessary atmosphere. The intro of the title track even goes one step further. It opens the gates to the snow covered landscape of Immortal's realm. Calm and frosty guitars lead to a desperate keyboard line, before the drums and the electric guitars set in. A hymnal riff heralds the strength of their fantasy kingdom and more rugged parts create a suspenseful atmosphere. Finally, the solo part adds the majestic touch which has become a trademark of the band's compositions. No doubt, this song constitutes a worthy representative of the album. This statement takes into account that the first three tracks reach the same level of brilliance. Without doubt, each and every of these opulent pieces would also have been a suitable title track, too. The triple pack at the beginning proves that Immortal manage flattening riffs as well as less aggressive sections and divine moments are not missing. For example, listen to this craggy line of "Solarfall": "See the ice in which we craft our souls / Earth's frozen cries the dark benight your kind" and enjoy its overwhelming guitar work. Apart from this line, I promise that there are more excellent details to discover.

Albeit each and every song lasts more than six minutes, Immortal are never at risk to bore the listener. Without appearing repetitive, the three-piece does not need 100 riffs per piece in order to enthuse the audience. With a view to the old slogan "less is more", the musicians prefer another way of proceeding. They give the guitars room to breathe with the result that they can develop their full effectiveness. In this respect, the powerful production should be mentioned, too. Fortunately, the mix cannot be confused with that of the predecessor. Instead of sounding flat and emotionless, it sparkles with its atmosphere and directness while forming acoustic ice crystals in abundance. Do they directly originate from Blashyrk? I don't know. But one thing is for sure, the Norwegian flagship has returned to its former glory.