If you don’t know who Immortal are then where the hell have you been hiding? Picking up the pieces from their messy split from former frontman Abbath, the band have returned with “Northern Chaos Gods”, the eighth album to bear the Immortal name. Vocal duties are now handled by Demonaz, who also has resumed guitar playing after a lengthy spell dealing with injury. His vocal style is altogether more vicious and less nasal than his predecessor. The question is can Immortal produce an album worthy of the name?
Proceedings begin with the title track, a violent tour-de-force akin to their earliest material, with Demonaz sounding positively pissed off. The band sound more energised and inspired than they have in years. Next up is “Into Battle Ride”, a storming death rattle; orthodox yet full of mesmerising fury, the band well and truly show their teeth here. The more measured pace of “Gates to Blashyrkh” has more of an “At The Heart Of Winter” vibe to it, a welcome change of pace. By contrast, the chaotic and meandering “Grim And Dark” borders on self-parody, and ticks every cliche box imaginable.
“Called To Ice” is, as the title suggests, a beastly blizzard (see what I did there?!) full of thrashy tempos and untamed snarling. They explore their more epic side with “Where Mountains Rise”. As majestic a Black Metal tunes as you will ever here, this is a startling display of storytelling mythos and dark mystique. It needed something powerful and snappy to go next, and they deliver with “Blacker of Worlds”, a heads-down rager that pulsates and blasts and leaves scars. “Mighty Ravendark” closes this grim and frostbitten picture with some powerful and emotive riffing. It reaches into the past and distils all that has ever been great about Immortal.
“Northern Chaos Gods” showcases a band with a point to prove. It seems that they are keen to leave behind the caricature image that Abbath often projected (oh lordy, those ridiculous memes!), and re-establish themselves as a pre-eminent Black Metal force. In many ways, the band have trawled through their back catalogue and pinpointed different eras to revisit, but have done so with great hunger, and without plagiarising themselves. A frantic call to arms.