Immortal need no introduction.
One of the heraldic acts of the second wave of black metal, Norway’s own sons of northern darkness effectively stood both within and outside of the greater black metal scenes of the day owing to their own unique outlook and band-created lyrical concepts. These concepts have fuelled Immortal, and provide the impetus once again for Immortal’s new opus. The other element of interest surrounding Northern Chaos Gods is the absence of founding member Abbath, who exited the band amid some controversy. The questions surrounding have been whether Demonaz and Horgh have been content to simply add to their discography, or if they are intent on making a statement. This reviewer aims to find out which approach they have chosen.
Album opener and title track ‘Northern Chaos Gods’ kicks off with a blindingly fast riff. Demonaz’ vocals (first heard on his own March of the Norse) soon erupt and are instantly recognisable as being slightly higher pitched than those of Abbath. From the outset, and choice of title track it feels like Immortal have firmly chosen the latter approach.
‘Into Battle Ride’ continues with more of the blistering barrage that opened the album, before slowing down to an anthemic mid-paced assault. This track almost sounds like it could have come off Pure Holocaust, and features fine displays of Demonaz’ skills as a guitarist amid furious blasting from Horgh and skilled bass lines from session player Peter Tägtgren. A bold move by Immortal, placing a clear highlight so early in the album.
‘Gates to Blashyrkh’ is a mid-paced punisher of a track. Covering admittedly familiar territory for Immortal, the music nearly feels as if it has been shaped around the lyrics. This is a sign of a veteran band who hasn’t lost sight of their craft. It feels instantly memorable, owing to its calculated pace and characteristic cold atmosphere.
‘Grim and Dark’ is like a call to battle. Changing up the pace a little, it goes right for the jugular. It feels like that at this point of the album, Immortal have settled comfortably into Northern Chaos Gods while still feeling they have something to prove. It’s razor sharp, devoid of any soft edges or filler, a track like this proves that Demonaz’ skills as a guitarist are as fine as ever.
‘Called to Ice’ returns to the faster pace of the album opener while keeping up the punishing, cold atmosphere set by tracks like ‘Gates to Blashyrk’. It’s assaulting, instantly recognisable, fist in the air Immortal. ‘Where Mountains Rise’ begins with a reflective guitar passage, before bludgeoning the listener with a caustic black metal salvo. This feels like it could have emerged from At the Heart of Winter. At this point in the album it’s clear what Immortal is here for. To leave aside the recent drama and focus on what they do. It’s a point worth repeating, as they’re using these songs to stake their claim.
‘Blacker of Worlds’ sees Demonaz in fine form. Spitting fire along with his venomous riffs. It’s a highlight also for the rhythm section of Horgh and Tägtgren as they take the focus amid Demonaz’ anchor-weighted riffs. It provides the perfect set up for the impending closer. ‘Mighty Ravendark’ is the longest track, clocking in at a shade over nine minutes. It is also the most ambitious as it moves the listener from icy peaks to glacial caverns. It feels like the final impact statement as it weaves from cold riffs to epic, atmospheric leads. All the while it delivers the characteristic Immortal atmosphere, lyrical tales and attitude.
With Northern Chaos Gods Immortal set out to address some questions that followed them in the wake of Abbath’s departure. I’m sure many of their listeners are keen to see how they would be addressed, and how Demonaz and Horgh would fare helming an album on their own. It certainly feels like they had something to prove; a reason to craft something that does more than just rest on their legacy. With Northern Chaos Gods they’ve done that, having forged an album that will stand the test of time.
- Northern Chaos Gods
- Into Battle Ride
- Gates to Blashyrkh
- Grim and Dark
- Called to Ice
- Where Mountains Rise
- Blacker of Worlds
- Mighty Ravendark