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Immortal being Immortal. - 85%

LycanthropeMoon, July 11th, 2018

When Demonaz and Horgh gave Abbath the boot (for understandable reasons in all honesty), I'll fully admit that I thought the band was done. I'm fully aware of the fact that Demonaz was a key songwriter in the early days and has written the lyrics for every single album, but it was just difficult imagining this band without its now iconic front man. After a rather disappointing, fairly dull solo album from the guy, I figured maybe I'd give the Abbathless incarnation of Immortal a fair shake. For one, I remembered something: All Shall Fall was kind of an uninspired disappointment itself. My expectations weren't all that high, but I was hoping for an album that was at least solid and fun to listen to.

Well, luckily, they delivered on that front. No, this thing isn't exactly innovative and it basically sounds like Immortal just being Immortal, but y'know what? That's fine, there's nothing wrong with that. I've always thought good songwriting was the most important thing - why force innovation on yourself? Either it'll come naturally to you or it won't, what matters is how well you put the music together. Some bands stand out by sheer songwriting quality alone (see: Enforcer, who wear their influences on their sleeves). This album is, in my view, one of those cases. The songs are vibrant and energetic, nothing on the fairly uninspired All Shall Fall can really be described that way to these ears.

You've got stuff like the album's title track, which brings back the sheer blasting brutality of Battles in the North and makes you wanna headbang until you break your neck. The track that immediately follows this, "Into Battle Ride", is much the same - speedy, fun-as-hell black metal...and its title just can't help but remind me of Into Glory Ride by Manowar, which I'm thinking is intentional. Those of you looking for epics in the style of At the Heart of Winter are in luck - "Mighty Ravendark", "Where Mountains Rise" and "Gates to Blashyrkh" certainly provide this. Essentially, this album is almost like a career retrospective. You'll hear stuff that makes you think of the older, rawer material and you'll hear stuff that'll bring to mind the epic thrash-influenced later albums. The one thing that appears to be missing is the blackened Morbid Angel stylings of Blizzard Beasts.

Oh, and Demonaz sounds feral and vicious on this album, something I certainly can't say about Abbath on the previous one. You can tell he put a lot of effort into his vocal performance. In some ways, he reminds me of the way Abbath sounded in the early 90s, though he's got his own thing going on most of the time. His guitar work is damn good too - makes me glad he recovered enough from his tendinitis to start playing again. Horgh's drumming is as reliably aggressive and tight as it's always been, no complaints there.

Despite a rather significant line-up change, Immortal appear to be in top shape. No, you won't hear anything particularly inventive here, but what you will get is a fun, fast-as-fuck piece of black metal from one of Norway's most influential bands. The loss of Abbath hasn't slowed these guys down at all, if anything it's revitalized them. Welcome back, sons of northern darkness!