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Twenty years later and no tragedies blew at horizon - 100%

goflotsam, July 7th, 2019

Norwegian black metal became famous in the early 1990s with bands like Mayhem, Darkthrone, Satyricon, and this band right here, Immortal. Unlike most of their peers whose lyrics were either about Satan or Tolkien, Immortal's lyrics are all about winter and their fictional setting of Blashyrkh. At the Heart of Winter is Immortal's fifth studio album and marked a change in the band's sound. It was the first album where Demonaz stepped down from guitars and primarily focused on writing lyrics. His guitar role was done by Abbath who has since switched from being a bassist to a guitarist during the latter's career. At the Heart of Winter is also the Immortal's most progressive album with all six songs being no less than six minutes.

Jokes aside, this album rips really hard. "Withstand the Fall of Time" opens up At the Heart of Winter with prominent thrash metal influence that is noticeable throughout the album. The guitar riffs in this song notably have an epic feel to them, almost like if Abbath went to the future and watched Game of Thrones for inspiration because "Winter's Coming". The other big highlight is "Tragedies Blows at Horizon", which has some complex time signatures coupled with arguably the most beautiful usage of synthesizers. The guitar playing stands out the most on this song. The title track also deserves a mention for just having some really catchy 80s-inspired guitar riffs and a Tolkien-esque guitar solo followed by a more Maiden-esque guitar solo.

Okay, it's established that the MVP of At the Heart of Winter is Abbath for his ridiculously well crafted guitar play which takes influence from black metal, thrash metal, and even progressive metal. He perfectly captures the way the album's epic atmosphere is supposed to sound. In addition, his signature croaking style of vocals become more prominent on this release whereas on albums like Pure Holocaust, they had a traditional Norwegian black metal aesthetic to them. Both albums are awesome and are among the band's Top 3 albums. Abbath didn't perform everything on At the Heart of Winter though, as Horgh (also a member of Hypocrisy) has a more unique and varied performance compared to predecessor Blizzard Beasts ranging from mid tempo to blast beats. Speaking of Hypocrisy, Peter Tagtgren produced At the Heart of Winter and the production is spot-on as songs like the title track have the grandiose levels of epicness that bandleader Demonaz visioned for. Demonaz knew that At the Heart of Winter wouldn't be highly regarded without his assistance with writing the lyrics so he stayed with Immortal in order to keep the band's integrity intact.

Artistic integrity can be risked whenever a band changes their sound drastically, but Immortal ironically benefited heavily from At the Heart of Winter. It is now widely considered Immortal's magnum opus and was notably inducted into Decibel Magazine's Hall of Fame. When people like my father say that progressive rock or metal is awesome, their pretty much right. The longer a song is, the more effort a band has put into their work. Twenty years ago, Immortal released what is essentially their The Dark Side of the Moon or The Number of the Beast and still today it holds up as one of the greatest Norwegian black metal albums ever made. It's definitely on par with those two aforementioned albums.