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All quiet on the Blashyrk front - 80%

Felix 1666, September 4th, 2015
Written based on this version: 2000, CD, Osmose Productions (Limited edition, Digipak)

Even after the temporary end and the re-start of the Norwegian three-piece, Immortal is still a name that splits the scene in lovers and haters. The guys from Bergen were never at risk to provoke only lame reactions like a shrug of the shoulders. Yet it seems as if the band felt comfortable with this situation. The cover of the here presented album borders on parody and is grist to the mill for the hate fraction. But the music tells another story. The seven pieces stand shoulder to shoulder with the previous classics of the band. The compositional approach of "Damned in Black" differs from that of its predecessor, the atmospheric "At the Heart of Winter". Anyway, there are no significant differences in terms of quality. Immortal present almost 37 of pristine black metal.

Without drawing heavily on their own back catalogue, the musicians stay loyal to their musical roots. You will therefore not miss craggy riffs, icy moments or diabolic vocals. Furthermore, drummer Horgh also does a good job. Not to mention the fact that he likes to go to his limits. Thus, one thing you can be sure of is that the fast parts of the songs do not lack of intensity - and, fortunately, there are a lot of rapid sequences. But due to the dense and voluminous production, the mid-paced sections also flex their muscles. Only the somewhat slippery guitar sound has left room for optimization.

I will not hide from you that some elements of their weakest album "Blizzard Beasts" emerge again. A few number of bulky riffs as well as some useless staccato drumming reminds the listener of the aforementioned effort. However, Immortal have learned from their mistake from 1997. They do not again appear as an insufficient alternative of Morbid Angel and "Damned in Black" does definitely not emanate an Americanized flair. The album clearly bears the jagged signature of the Norwegians. The ultimate evidence of this is the dramatic title track on the last position. With regard to its coherently structured riffing and the minimalist yet pinpoint chorus, it leaves no doubt that the creators of a black metal masterpiece ("Pure Holocaust") do not need to copy the success formula of any other group. Too bad that the insistent song suffers from its boring ending. Anyway, the vapid fade-out is not more than just a mere blemish that cannot call into question the quality of this icecold piece.

But it would be misleading to put only the title track in the spotlight, because it does not eclipse the other songs. Immortal present a full-length that scores with its evenness. One never gets the feeling that the band worked under time pressure, because each and every tune possesses a meticulously designed structure. The Scandinavians find the right balance between complexity and accessibility. In addition, the musicians are able to follow strictly the patterns of their genre without offering a monotonous album. Although they do not leave the eerie paths of Norwegian black metal, the spirited and diversified guitar leads captivate the listener. By contrast, the brittle solos are of minor importance. Be that as it may, "Damned in Black" shows a self-confident and competent band that has created a consistent album instead of showcasing a collection of a few outstanding songs that have been put together with some half-baked fillers.