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Album Reviews : Immortal – Northern Chaos Gods

By on June 23, 2018

Norwegian icons and black metal touchstones, Immortal, issue a ninth album via a musical partnership very few would have anticipated a few years ago.

Olve Eikemo (Abbath) is gone, as almost everyone who reads this review will know. Reidar Horghagen (Horgh- drums/ percussion) is on board, as he has been every year the band has been active since the release of Blizzard Beasts (’97), and again, it’s hardly new news to the faithful that Harald Nævda (Demonaz Doom Occulta) resumes his role as guitarist for the first time since 1997. On Northern Chaos Gods, Demonaz assumes the mantle of frontman and vocalist as well.

As an old fan, a fan from the deep and dark 90’s, when store clerks eyed you with a suspicious gaze as a ‘couldn’t be anything but’ black metal album was purchased, Northern Chaos Gods, brings back a heap of dormant memories.

Okay, stay with me. This isn’t necessarily a trip down memory lane. It’s actually with some conflict that I describe Northern Chaos Gods as a natural successor to Blizzard Beasts.

Blizzard Beasts, isn’t a classic Immortal album. In fact, it’s one of the outfits least successful efforts. Recalling my own reading from the era, Abbath described it as a rushed affair, recorded after long hours in a day-job and that it was notable primarily for the presence of the very capable Horgh.

But it’s fair to say that Northern Chaos Gods picks up where Blizzard Beasts concludes. The style of the mile-a-minute drumming from Horgh is the most prominent carryover. The excellent Peter Tägtgren produced the album (and also played bass guitar), it sounds like he has gone for a mix that pairs the drum sound to match the guitar playing of Demonaz. It’s no coincidence then that the end result sounds similar to Blizzard Beasts, given this was the last album to feature the duo’s musicianship.

Demonaz clearly has the better handle of alternate picking guitar technique over Abbath. Abbath can play, no doubt, but his guitar technique is a simplified version of the clarity that Demonaz brings. Its great hear Demonaz’s articulate phrasing on Northern Chaos Gods, given 20 years ago it looked like he had to give up performing due to a case of acute tendinopathy.

The songwriting is consistent with the lyrical narrative Immortal established 25 years ago. The mythical Blashyrkh gets a nod by name via the fourth album cut “Gates to Blashyrkh”, there’s even a cut called “Grim and Dark”, so no one could accuse Demonaz of diluting the band’s potent magick and Arctic theme. Gone is the ‘heroic’ and ‘epic’ songcraft of the albums released since 1999 as Northern Chaos Gods is mostly blitzkrieg riffage and croaked vocals delivered at a ferocious pace.

In the modern era of Norse-toting, non-Scandinavian outfits peddling all sorts of folk-inspired, doom enhanced metal (you know, the ones that have runes in their logo or merch…), it’s refreshing to feel a cold blast of icy Norwegian black metal to remind you that the original is the best. No synths, no female vocals, no doom riffage and drawn out musical passages designed to create ‘mood’ … no compromise on the original Immortal template.

Northern Chaos Gods isn’t the near-to-perfect Pure Holocaust (’93), or even the flawed classic, Battles in the North (’95)… but what is in 2018? The album works as a ‘play it in your car’ ode to the raw energy that defined Immortal’s black metal from all those years ago.

Band: Immortal
Album: Northern Chaos Gods
Year: 2018
Genre: Black Metal
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Origin: Norway

About

Andrew is a musician who has spent many years performing on the stages of the pubs and clubs of Queensland. A devotee of the broad church that is rock, punk, funk, jazz and of course all genres of metal... he now shares his enthusiasm via a burgeoning pursuit of music journalism. Follow him on twitter @andymckaysmith