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As Good As It Gets - 100%

corviderrant, February 12th, 2004

For me, this was my first exposure to these Norwegian veterans, and you knwo what they say about the first cut being the deepest. I've since acquired all their albums, and while they all are equally consistent in quality (that is, ranging from good to great--they never released a crappy album, in my opinion), the last three are my all time favorites. When Abbath took up the full time guitar position, what had been good before skyrocketed to godhead. This album in particular features my all time favorite tunes of theirs, and the following examination tells why.

PRODUCTION: This shows that black metal does not have to sound as though it was recorded in a shoebox with one mic to still be evil, cold, and harsh. Handled by Peter "Da Man" Tagtgren, it is full and clear, but still maintains a deliciously slicing, raspy guitar tone that is abrasive, yet thick. The bass is also plainly audible, its dirty yet defined tone rumbling away under the walls of guitar, and since Peter does not like to use triggers, it's nice to hear a more natural drum sound. Thumbs up all around, here.

ABBATH: On this album he really hit the motherlode of riffage, and his strong, well-connected riffs just keep coming. I cannot get over how powerful his playing is on this album! His nasal rasp/snarl vocal style remained intact, adding character if not vocal variety, but it's the music that counts, and he riffed his stocky corpsepainted arse off all over this one. A crucial third of one of the most important black metal forces out of Norway!

ISCARIAH: Unlike most black metal bassists, he would not stay in the background, and his growling, distorted B.C. Rich Ironbird was right up there with the guitars. A tight, skilled player with incredibly cool tone!

HORGH: OK, so he's not Pete Sandoval or Nick Barker, but I can't imagine anybody else drumming for Immortal. His sledgehammer hitting and precise time anchored Immortal like no other previous drummer had, and overall his was a style founded on equal parts savagery and grace, after a fashion.

THE TOP TUNES: (of a killer album)

"Triumph": After a few seconds' worth of ambient sound effects, the guitars come roaring in with the first of numerous catchy and annihilating riffs, and seconds later the rest of the band tears it up at roughly lightspeed! One of the fastest tunes here, this shows that after the more laid-back "At The Heart Of Winter", Immortal still had it and had not gone soft. A storm of drumming and those thorny guitars really make this one stand out.

"Wrath From Above": After an arresting intro that will get your head banging no matter what, another furious blastfest rears its ugly head! Only this tune runs through all the tempos you can imagine, from wrenchingly slow to blazing fast, and everything in between, and all perfectly structured.

"Against The Tides(In The Northern World": Riff nirvana is achieved here with three of Abbath's best riffs in rapid succession--I dare you to stop yourself from air guitaring and flinging your hair in time with him. A slower, and no less powerful tune that feels like an unstoppable tank.

"In Our Mystic Vision Blest": Some of Horgh's most savage and merciless blast beats show up in this one--I pity his snare drum! The warp speed intro segues into a mid paced verse with a creepy-crawling riff that is catchy as hell, and ends on a high, hard note.

"Damned In Black": Ohhhh, hell yes! Another tank crawling over rough terrain number featuring one of Abbath's most urgent riffs just before the first chorus, and the best tune on the album for me. How can the opening military cadence snare and high sliding riffs not grab your attention?

This is one of the best black metal albums ever released, and it does not rely upon constant blast beats and screamed ultra-Satanic drivel to make its point. This has it all; mood, vibe, blistering heaviness, and impeccable riffage. What more do you need? Necro "Tr00 KVlt" types need not apply here, this is mature and stylish and all you need for an exposure to good quality black metal (aside from the likes of "Black Metal", the old Bathory albums, "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas" get the picture!).