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Immortal - Northern Chaos Gods - 80%

Voidhanger2, August 9th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2018, CD, Nuclear Blast America

Well Jesus jumping Christ it’s about fucking time. It’s been almost a decade since the underwhelming-but-not-bad “All Shall Fall” and Immortal have finally returned sans longtime vocalist and frontman Abbath, who bailed after some legal disputes and released his own self-titled album from his self-titled band. It was a decent enough emulation of Immortal, but there’s no question that “Northern Chaos Gods” completely trounces it.

As clichéd as the turn of phrase sounds, “Northern Chaos Gods” marks a return to form for Immortal. Remember putting on “Battles in the North” for the first time and getting blown apart by a barrage of blasting? Well, the aggression and speed of old is back, and is evident right from the get-go. No fanfare, no intro, no fancy fucking business – just sheer speed, the likes of which we haven’t heard from Immortal since the mid-nineties. ‘Blacker of Worlds,’ ‘Into Battle Ride’ and the eponymous song are relentless flurries of Horgh’s monstrous kit pummeling and Demonaz’s ice-cold riffing that even occasionally calls to mind “Pure Holocaust” in a way that no other millennial Immortal album has been able to.

That’s not to say that “Northern Chaos Gods” is a complete regression. They’ve retained some of the melodic aspects of later albums like “At the Heart of Winter,” especially evident in ‘Where Mountains Rise’ and ‘Mighty Ravendark,’ that give the album moments of towering majesty and allow Immortal to capture the best of all of their eras and accumulate it into one formidable outing.

Now to touch on the obvious elephant in the room – or rather, not in the room – Abbath. Immortal's sound has long been associated with Abbath’s writing and trademark vocals, and there was speculation that continuing Immortal without him would be disastrous. Demonaz is not Abbath, and that familiar frog-croak is nowhere to be found on “Northern Chaos Gods.” Having said that, Demonaz is a fantastic vocalist in his own right and his voice fits Immortal perfectly. The fact is that as much as I enjoyed Abbath on vocals on their previous albums, he’s not terribly missed here. Any question about the writing surviving Abbath’s departure needs only to listen to the first few seconds of the album as proof that there is indeed life after Abbath.

“Northern Chaos Gods” is a vicious and forceful mission statement by an invigorated Demonaz and Horgh to say that Immortal is not only back, but back to what made the band what it is. It’s a statement that they back completely. “Northern Chaos Gods” is what I, and I suspect many others, have wanted to hear from Immortal for a long time.

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