Register Forgot login?

© 2002-2019
Encyclopaedia Metallum

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

Privacy Policy

Dark clouds over Blashyrkh. - 55%

ConorFynes, August 28th, 2015

Battles in the North is a disappointment in virtually every regard. I don't know what happened to Immortal that made them drop the ball so quickly, but it must have been something. Look at it in context: their last album was Pure Holocaust. In one album, they forged the ground level for true black metal, all the while developing their own unique voice they had introduced on the debut. Pure Holocaust might have every black metal trope known to man, but damn it, those tropes exist because of that album. The faster, streamlined Immortal sound took a while longer to grow on me in comparison with Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticism, but it wasn't long before I was able to see it for the maniacal testament that it was and is.

So, what the fuck happened? Did Mighty Ravendark decide to take a mighty shit on Immortal halfway into the recording? Battles in the North isn't so bad, but it has flaws enough to beg the question.

It wouldn't be unfair to say Immortal's career trajectory was largely spawned from the threads they wove on Pure Holocaust. What Battles in the North should have been was an apt continuation of those threads, keeping the punishing blend of Demonaz's precise guitarwork and Abbath's primitive, pummeling drumwork. Instead, the guitars here sound sloppier than they were on Pure Holocaust. And as if it were some Grand Prix of Sloppiness, the drums sound even more rushed, to the point where objectively derived fuck-ups in the performance are left in, because who knows; maybe they thought no one would notice?

Immortal's sound has always favoured a lo-fi, raw production, and I think they mastered it on Pure Holocaust. A lot of the technical issues on Battles in the North almost sound like Immortal were trying to roll back their sound to the amateurish intuition of the debut and early demos. The difference here is that, by 1995, Immortal had long since proven that they could not only play, but play like ravenous, technically-inclined demons. Abbath screwing up the occasional beat doesn't sound true so much as lazy, and Demonaz' biting playing sounds uncharacteristically dead, thanks in great part to a flat-sounding production. If I had to guess, Battles in the North seems like it was a misguided attempt to keep reinventing their sound. Given how inspired Pure Holocaust was as an expression of style, I don't know why the band would have seen it necessary to keep changing. Their heart was obviously still in the same place, but whatever added rawness they tried to inject into the formula hurts what otherwise would have been another great Immortal album.

This album condemns itself on the ground of a shoddy performance. I wouldn't say the songwriting isn't too much worse than Pure Holocaust, but most of the reason I was so impressed by that album was that Immortal played hard and brutally enough to make me care about somewhat samey, predictable tunes. The muted production, mixing and performance issues are more than enough to rob Immortal of their traditional spirit, so I'm left to wonder how much I'd have liked this album if it had enjoyed the same passionate display as the album before it. "Battles in the North" is certainly a good track; "Cursed Realms of the Winterdemons" and "Circling Above in Time Before Time" boast better-than-average riff sets as well. Possibly best of all, "Blashyrkh (Mighty Ravendark)" hints at the epic, cold atmosphere I look to this band for. For songwriting's sake, Battles in the North is about as good as I'd expect from Immortal, and it's a shame these songs weren't delivered near as well as they should have been.

Whether Immortal were sincerely trying to switch up their approach with this one, or whether the weak performance is an honest blemish, it's enough to make this album one of the weakest in their discography, maybe the worst of all. In most cases, a band that tries to strip their sound, going 'back to their roots' is only doing so because they've run out of ideas. I refuse to believe Immortal lacked the inspiration to make something as powerful as Pure Holocaust. Indeed, they would get around to making amazing stuff again by At the Heart of Winter, but the fact that Battles in the North faltered in between such great albums just has me wondering what was going through their heads at the time. Otherwise, Immortal stayed relatively true to form with this one, but the problems are bold enough to make this one a mixed success at best.