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Kings of the ravenrealm - 92%

Felix 1666, October 24th, 2015
Written based on this version: 1995, CD, Osmose Productions (Embossed Digipak)

Two grim looking dudes kneel in the snow while clasping their electric guitars. Otherwise they would probably drop. Welcome to the outposts of Blashyrkh.

After the groundbreaking predecessor, Immortal were confronted with the question of how to design the third album. "Pure Holocaust" had already reached the final limits of fury, velocity and determination. But the Norwegians found a solution. First of all, the sound of "Battles in the North" differs completely and cannot be confused with that of the previous work. "Battles in the North" is colder, sharper and less dense. Indeed, it conveys the feeling of being lost in a snowstorm while sensing the breath of the enemy. I am quite unsure whether this is a good production in objective terms. Yet it meets the requirements of this type of Northern black metal very precisely. Maybe you have to get used to the mix, but your efforts are rewarded.

The songs themselves are focused on mercilessness and franticness while ploughing through the crusted fields. This applies at least for the majority of the tunes. Their compositional arrangements are fairly simple and the relatively short playtime does not allow escalating constructions. Irrespective of this, the tracks deliver the necessary amount of surprising moments. Immortal are clever enough to design the songs in a stunning way. Right from the beginning, the title track finds its way through the icy deserts. Harsh drums and pressed guitars evoke the spirit of the wasteland and the pretty Spartan melodies possess the right degree of malignancy. It becomes clear very quickly that Immortal do not lack of ignorance towards external influences. Although the lyrics do not deal with Satan, Lucifer and their whole circle of friends, Immortal perform pure black metal with all its famous ingredients such as ice-cold guitars, hateful nagging and rapidly hammered drums. Too bad that the snare drum has to struggle in order to be heard during the high speed parts. And there are a lot of these parts. Nevertheless, the album does not fail to wow the listener with the necessary dynamic, not least because Immortal insert a few slower parts successfully.

The closer works as a contrast to its rapid predecessors. "Blashyrkh (Mighty Ravendark)" stands in the tradition of "A Perfect Vision of a Rising Northland". Thus, it combines frosty weather with mid-paced rhythms while expressing the craggy Northern nature in an unbeatable way. It is the last piece in an unexpectedly strong chain of highlights at the end of the album. The nervous "Through the Halls of Eternity" surprises with a majestic ending and "Circling Above in Time Before Time" impresses with its unswerving velocity and some strange guitar tones during its final section. It may sound paradoxical, but Immortal are able to offer a solid degree of variety without leaving their narrow frame. Generally speaking, the band equips the songs with pretty catchy choruses and strong and / or surprising endings. Perhaps you like to listen to the unholy "Moonrise Fields of Sorrow" in order to verify my statement.

At the time of its release, I was convinced that this album deserves the highest rating. But over the years, it has lost a few percents of its penetrating power. A small number of the songs was unfortunately not able to withstand the test of time. That does not mean that there are any tracks which let you think of using the skip button. Each and every tune reaches at least a good level. Hence follows that "Battles in the North" is still highly recommendable. Too bad that I cannot find Blashyrk on my map.