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Decisive Defeat - 11%

OzzyApu, October 24th, 2013

This is the lamest Immortal release for the one fact that it’s a repetitive, sloppy mess. The cover art’s cool in a goofy way and the title is one that evokes an epic quality, but that’s worth more before hearing the album. The music itself doesn’t live up to that at all, even when that which is praiseworthy is put into the equation. Think of all the typical ‘90s black metal traits and think of why a lot of it doesn’t pay off. Could it be bad production, sloppy playing, or something like poor songwriting? Well this album’s got all of it and chooses to never be anything more than a joke. Abbath’s vocals are laughable, the drumming’s excited but mindless, and bar a few decent riffs and the bulk of the final song, Battles In The North is a dusty antique at best.

Why do songs abruptly cut off? Why does everything have the exact same pace except “Blashyrkh (Mighty Ravendark)”? Why does Abbath sound like a choking toad? There are so many questions to ask that lead to the big question - despite all the things wrong with this, why is it considered a classic? Its grubby production, while in one way does give off this cold, sharp tone, strips this album of emotion. Tremolo is cutting in distortion and does have bite to it, so add some melody and there’ll be riffs aplenty... except there isn’t. There’s a blend of the same sounding riffs for over half the album, and it gets upsettingly tedious when there are no hooks to keep me interested. The final track is the only song which I like because it sounds like the epic, thought-out Immortal with actual writing, riff prowess, and some of that fantasy-atmosphere that makes them sound otherworldy. “Cursed Realms Of The Winterdemons” has this for like ten seconds, too, before it devolves into blasturbation.

That’s what the rest of this album’s like (harsh, but uneventful music). It’s blast beats upon blast beats and tremolo upon tremolo. Its overwhelming, flood-like temperament would be one to behold had there been competent writing behind it. I mean add some harmonies, some eclectic leads, atmospheric passages, more than a few distinct riffs instead of the sharp buzz of guitars, and put someone behind the kit that can actually do something other than blitzy bonks. Abbath’s drumming sucks so bad behind those stammering double bass queues and clowny snare hits.

Don’t mistake this for a whirlwind or flurry of callous black metal. Immortal’s first album was numinous while Pure Holocaust was baleful; this one’s a bare bones onslaught. I use bare bones in terms of songwriting and in terms of production. While this isn’t terribly produced or mixed (except the drums which are clunky and imbalanced), it lacks personality. I mean anything that’s just BRRRRRRR-ing guitars and DUNGADUNGADUNGADUNGA blasting is going to force energy and lack personality. The worst is Abbath’s vocals, which I actually do like on other releases. Why the double standard for this album? Because the music itself is such crap that his swampy, skeletal toad croak has nothing to support it. Plus with this bony production his clear vocals feel empty. Two especially annoying moments are in the songs “Cursed Realms Of The Winterdemons” (when he goes “Winds have come for meeee! Winds will come to meeee!” Ugh…) and that belch / scream in “Blashyrkh (Mighty Ravendark)” during that elegant, Bathory-esque bridge. Oof, even timeless lines on this album like “You might say I’m demonized!” don’t save it.

I am bashing this for its lack of variety, poor execution, and laughable nature, but it still has some charm. That charm is in the fact that it’s an Immortal album, plus the music videos are amusing and serve better for this release’s appearance rather than the album’s own attempt at being fierce. Battles In The North by itself is largely unremarkable. It’s just a barely regulated, ultra-standard black metal album where nothing’s accomplished except bombarding the listener with the same track switched up nine times. Had the album been more like the final song, this would have deserved its lofty, albeit mixed, place in history. Instead, it’s a dud that deserves to be buried in an avalanche.