The most technical of the Scandinavian black metal bands, Immortal fused melody and sweeping song structures with the strumming technique and rhythmic framework of modern metal. Their epic "Diabolical Full Moon Mysticism" is definitive of the genre.
Production: Reasonable garagelike with some studio touches and significant amounts of hardware hacking. Most sounds are discernible and guitar sound is clear throughout the album.
Review: Immortal unveiled the core of nascent black metal in this debut offering of dark, romantic, and epic songs which despite their amateur nature communicate an intensity of mood and awareness that few rock or even metal bands can match. Combining the syncopated elements of early death metal, the vastly differentiated structures and themes of the previous era's hobbit rock, and the simple rhythmic insurgency of hardcore music and simple black metal, these Norwegians create a massive depth of intricacy with a matching mythology.
1. Intro (1:35)
2. The call of the wintermoon (5:40)
3. Unholy forces of evil (4:28)
4. Cryptic winterstorms (6:08)
5. Cold winds of funeral dust (3:47)
6. Blacker than darkness (4:17)
7. A perfect vision of the rising northland (9:04)
Copyright © 1992 Osmose
The rock n roll basis for these songs’ construction follows the familiar bass-snare patterns but layers over them simple chordal riffs with harmonic intensity through sublimated melody. Although simple and often standard these progressions overlaid produce compositional pieces which are ably manipulated to create ambitious and spanning structures, narrative in their variation yet thematic centeredness. In the background a highhat ticks off the instants in each sample, under a roaring wash of distortion that is both representative and obscure, bringing out the tonal elements of the music in an ambient fuzz of resonance tones. Bass lopes behind, slow but pointed deliberate root notes underscoring the dominant rhythms of each riff.
Further rhythm comes from the vocals, a blowing monotone that flares around the points of percussive emphasis in riff and rhythm, driving intensity higher. There are few solos per se but compositional lead guitar occasionally provides another layer of harmony. The structural innovations of this album place it in a new sub-genre of thought but its riff composition clearly differentiates it from all visible elements, including older styles of black metal and the darker, more rhythmically undulating and ambient death metal bands.
Whatever comprises this amalgamation the finished product does not betray, coming from a synthesis of styles but a new direction artistically, choosing the dark aesthetic as instead of fright resonance and emotional intensity, both invoking the romantic eras of former ages and the cyberpunk futurism of dystopia in its philosophy and lyric. This conception powers the rest of this creation, deriving a style from the convergence of needs of expression. At its boundaries the juvenilia strain reveals a simple underpinning, but in its core this music is one of the genetic ancestors of black metal as a mode of thought.
Production: Immortal have attempted here to use production in a new way by creating ambient spaces filled with distortion which emanates from center outward its internal harmonies and melodic progression. They have accomplished this by distorting guitar and bass to extremes and muting drums into a racing background blast. Vocals are mixed above this but are not intrusive nor do they distort other instruments.
Review: Immortal create vast and epic black metal through rushing fast melody that breaks pattern to project spaces of fantasy, virtual existences for the mind to roam while the body is trapped. The construction of their music follows not definitive harmonic rules but deconstructive anti-harmonic power chord composition structured in unorthodox ways to create as wide a space of potential melodic affinity as possible, simultaneously supporting its chaos with seemingly disconnected drums which maintain a fast blasting counterpart to the soaring, diving, dimensional melodies.
The geometry of metal has here been turned outward in another dimension through choice of tones augmented by atmospheric production which unmolds guitar from rhythmic constraints so that the smallest patterns of its elements might overlap with the largest patterns of its overall structure, creating an ambient effect not only within each repeated phrase but within the context of the phrase.
Any note played at any time during a chord will be sounded with all others in the shuddering wall of distorted reverberation, and the finer motions of the whipping high-speed strum used to produce this tremelo/sustain make the music breathe with its own progression.
1. Unsilent Storms in the North Abyss (3:14)
2. A Sign For The Norse Hordes to Ride (2:35)
3. The Sun No Longer Rises (4:20)
4. Frozen By Icewinds (4:40)
5. Storming Through Red Clouds and Holocaustwinds (4:40)
6. Eternal Years On The Path To The Cemetary Gates (3:30)
7. As The Eternity Opens (5:31)
8. Pure Holocaust (5:17)
Copyright © 1993 Osmose
From analysis that a friend of mine has done, Immortal use power chords composed of the root notes with a melodic note an octave higher. This stretches the range of the melody through the notes of the scale in their relative patterns by emphasizing the open-ness rather than the closure of the system. As notes are arranged by logarithmic expansion they create spreading waves of harmony once broken from specifics of context and allowed to overlap as the potential component complements of all other tones in the phrase.
This style affirms the ultimate nihilism of death metal, which is a seeming disregard for all order to the point of negating communication, but does it through a method of showing potential and not kinetic connection, illustrating what could be rather than the confinements of boundary.
With the careful melodies emphasized by this and other techniques, and the precise and varied song structures, this music is both beautiful and extreme in the same pulsing rhythmic strokes. Its beauty comes from the allure of evil, its mystery and ambiguity, while its power comes from the finality and aggression with which it delivers the distorted, awkward remnants of the only beauty in the world - death.
Songs are fast and structured to move independently of order, introducing concepts which are repeated and recursed for introduction, then resolved in the evolution of the riff to a final concept which is held suspended in its minimalism, accountable for nothing but a complement to that which came before. Usually one or two dominant riffs (sometimes verse/chorus, sometimes not) per song define the metastructures which distribute throughout the many small rhythms and harmonies of this chaotic, frenetic music.
Like most black metal, this starts inscrutably and then develops a harmonic voice which then progresses onward to construct each song, a process Immortal have refined an art while hiding heavy and fast death metal among the black metal arias. These however are done well and provide part of the natural motion of Immortal's work seamlessly. It is beautiful and heavy, light and fascinating.
Brilliant however is the surgical orchestration of these simple elements with which Immortal achieve their power, inverting structures and suggesting a devil’s advocate to any conventional sense of harmony or melody. The listener experiences this ordering as a landscape distributed through ambient recreation of central ideas and consequently the music takes a greater epic quality than the power of its individual elements, linking together not only technically advanced riffs but compositionally-designed transitions to build an overall experience of mixed, varied, and potent emotional and intellectual metaphors.
Although given credit by few for the breadth of its achievement, this album represents a possible future direction for the more complex and progressive avenues of black metal. Its depth of character and spirit as well as artistic medium create an ambience that cannot be duplicated, while the sheer physicality and ambitious potential of this music drive the mystical heart of the animal into perceptive overdrive. One of the classics of this genre not to be missed.
Production: Sleek yet rough-hewn blasting fuzz production.
Review: As the initial conquests of black metal faded into a search for roots, Immortal caught on early and created a masterwork of the spirited discharge of subconscious energy that is characteristic of the genre, accelerated by its presence in this inventive and eruptive form of battering music. Seething distortion and rolling battledrums obscure all but the harsh voice of winter when sound drops to the relatively soft for building of conclusive melody, allowing transfer of theme for sequencing its multitude of sensations that are like perception of a place as a whole in memory: dreamlike, idealized, and detailed across many incidents.
1. Battles in the North
2. Grim and Frostbitten Kingdoms
3. Descent into Eminent Silence
4. Throned by Blackstorms
5. Moonrise Fields of Sorrow
6. Cursed Realms of the Winterdemons
7. At the Stormy Gates of Mist
8. Through the Halls of Eternity
9. Circling Above in Time Before Time
10. Blashyrkh (Mighty Raven Dark)
Copyright © 1995 Osmose
In pure form such as that, black metal becomes a gesture of the parts of the mind most reputable psychologists refuse to study. Its gesture of primal change through destruction and the spirit of dissatisfaction conquers all objections toward the moral as majestic melodies rise from detonating chaos. Lyrics as a component of the music are pure metaphor, spelling the triumph of will through awareness and action despite a stagnant yet unexploited external reality. Violent disruptive phrasing and "bombastic" use of rhythmic dynamics as compositional structure aid the descent into the unreal.
Musicianship centers on guitar, as bass and drums administrate under the arch theatric vocals in which Immortal expand texture and theme. The former, as the simpler of the two, is the broadest implementation with the difference between all guns blazing and the open mid-paced phrases familiar from their first album, as a basic range, covered in several layers. Varied strumming speed and ability to blur rhythm and tone in a furious precipitation of melody exposes internal harmonization as phenomena build for an epiphany of modal resolution. Gentle in some moods, and savage in most, instrumentation requisitions attention through its infective memes of theme expanding from the simplest to the grandest, with aspiration unmatched by any "popular" music in the age of self-absorbed nullity.
Triumphantly presented as unity in concept and vision, the elitist black metal of Immortal fuses the eloquence of Bathory in "Blood, Fire, Death" era with Celtic Frost in the days of "To Mega Therion," and in doing so escapes most of the self-indulgence and gothicism without losing its sense of humor and of basic, pulsing, regenerating life in the will to survive and create. Often sonorous, sometimes transcendently crafted for resonant thematic emphasis, the wild textural feast of bombardment presented by these frozen Norsemen inspired many to grit their teeth and endure the frigidity of the degeneration of black metal.
Production: Clear and full, at volume without enhanced loudness. Consequently, quite a bit of tone is preserved despite the gritty, distorted feel to this recording.
Review: To surpass the sheer intensity of previous experiments in high-intensity speed and melody, Immortal furthered the evolution of their music by incorporation of a surprising ancestor to much of the innovation in current metal: progressive death metal. The simple song structures of black metal have modulated into more symphonic death metal arrangements, using the same meta-effect of narrative composition that makes black metal both industrial- and folk-reminiscent at times but with each song broken into sequences of riffs, built from a meta-phrase, crafted from from structures which lack the flowing melodic resonant rhythm-synchronization of Pure Holocaust, and also eschew the stamp-y, high-speed ripping sequence of material most likely heard off Battles in the North; the melodic inspiration comes from the style of their first album, but built from psychotic dissonant elements in a futuristic technical style, and flows through rigid and surprisingly, well, death metal, riffs.
Intricate subchambers of reaction provide space for iteration of higher level events, and for that there are many stop-start and percussive riffs, muted and perhaps even tone-centric in the way of death metal composition, within a crazy framework of black metal ideas: the emergent melody riding simple harmonic progressions, the dissonance and angular geometries of powerchords building structures over the algebraic mirrors of the riffs.
1. Intro (1:00)
2. Blizzard Beasts (2:49)
3. Nebular Ravens Winter (4:13)
4. Suns that Sank Below (2:47)
5. Battlefields (3:40)
6. Mountains of Might (6:38)
7. Noctambulant (2:22)
8. Winter of The Ages (2:33)
9. Frostdemonstorm (2:54)
Copyright © 1997 Osmose
Instead of the bursting blast of polyrhythmic drums, Immortal utilize more conventional drumbeats with some modifications in a style reminiscent of early Emperor. These beats are reasonably executed in long phrases with offbeat fills and intense violence; there is more immediately discernible complexity to this sound, which nostalgizes the old drumroar as essentially more extreme.
Of course the insane voice, unchanged, howls in the wind over the din below, directing the chaos symphony toward climax. Guiding the songs, bent from different views of the same abstract evocative events, the rasping ghoulish comedic voice blazes a purely mythological lyrical path in symbology and motion that resolves into chaotic lawlessness. Similarly, themes emerge from the differences between notes expanded to greater conceptual levels, and rhythms work themselves into resolution in the granular objectivism of deconstructive power-chord riffing. The off-beat sense of Prong, the riff arrangement and integration of Morbid Angel or Slayer, the melody of later DarkThrone with the atonality, genius, sheer composition of their own creation, are each foundational elements of the power to this music.
Production: Live album recorded from within the crowd. You here the yobs yelling for liquid respite and the dumb suggestions of the crowd, but you also get blasted with the vocals in extreme screeching ripped-open mayhem over the somewhat inaudible and crunchily abstracted guitars which provide some listening when not blasted out by the vocals, although always cut by the blast of the tom/bass. It's one of those "Bootleg Made in Hell" type situations.
2. Unsilent Storms in the North Abyss
3. Call of the Winter Moon
4. A Sign for the Norse Hordes to Ride
5. The Sun No Longer Rises
6. Eternal Years
7. On the Path to the Cemetary Gates
8. Unholy Forces of Evil
9. Pure Holocaust
Copyright © 1996 Nordic Empire
Genuine Unholy Nordic Music
This bootleg is formatted as one long track with reasonably bad sound that captures mostly rhythm and highlights of tone, but not a complete pictures. However, this still remains one of the more popular Immortal bootlegs for pure spirit, energy in these frenetic songs, and its availability. An introduction of wind noises blown through some sort of insane PA distortion, with soft rising music in the background and chanting, sounds like a keyboard version of a soundtrack to a 50s war film and as such is the perfect introduction to the dissident music of the generation after the children of the 1950s.
1. Withstand the Fall of Time
3. Tragedies Blow at Horizon
4. Where Dark and Light Don't Differ
5. At the Heart of Winter
6. Years of Silent Sorrow
At the Heart of Winter (Osmose, 1998)
Moore's law of metal applies thus: any band that reaches its artistic peak will halve the distance to its artistic roots every eighteen months, and seeing how "Pure Holocaust" defined a large chunk of the genre the expansion of Immortal was limited after the definition of style that was "Battles in the North" and the following return to a death metal work ethic in black metal servitude to melodic conceptual songwriting. After this "At The Heart of Winter" recognizes the state of the genre and the loss of former stringman Demonaz and to transcend those obstacles changes to a bounding epic soundtrack-meets-quintessential-heavy-metal quality, dramatic expression of self in classic riff patterns adapted to the basics of black metal melodic technique and signature Immortal phrasing and choice of dissonant yet evocative mood. It is sensual listening in a simpler continuation of the direction in which Immortal was headed, finding an acceptable way out without fully selling out. Having the strength of their brains, it is superior to virtually everything else in this form currently being produced by "black metal" bands.
1. Triumph (5:41)
2. Wrath from above (5:46)
3. Against the tide (in the arctic world) (6:03)
4. My dimension (4:32)
5. The darkness that embraces me (4:38)
6. In our mystic visions blest (3:11)
7. Damned in Black (6:52)
Damned in Black (Osmose, 2000)
When musicians lose that inner excitement that motivates them to push themselves beyond their own limits to create something they would be chomping at the bit to hear, what replaces it is a functionalism that results in the production of finer musical moments than their earlier work, but a discohesive whole because there is no longer anything complete to say, but a few flashes of inspiration mixed into a standard song format that accomplishes the task. They have become a backed into a corner as people wearing suits and ties, grabbing quick chances to do things they enjoy amidst a stream of obligations. The linearization of Immortal's music undertaken on this album has sections of such clarity that one wishes for that experience in the earlier work of this band, but it is mixed into a pemmican of uptight heavy metal riffs and post-Swedish tugging rhythms that get closer to the bounciness of rock than this band would ever have attempted in its heyday. Nothing here is bad, but nothing is organized into any meaningful patterns, so the impression left on the listener is of brilliant studio musicians assigned a rockish, crowd-pleasing, deathy heavy metal album. Their trademark ear for melody and pacing of introductory material has not left them, and vast portions of these songs resemble similar work from their previous death metal masterpiece, "Blizzard Beasts," but there is none of the cohesion and insight that marked such works. Undoubtedly, this album will outsell everything they've done previously, but it will penetrate a small distance into the souls of its listeners, and while more may like it, there will not be the few who fall utterly in love with it as was possible with "Pure Holocaust" and "Diabolical Full Moon Mysticism" in addition to the previously named death metal work.
BLACK | DEATH | HEAVY | SPEED | THRASH | GRINDCORE
Copyright © 1988-2004 the Dark Legions Archive