Black metal has proved to be an enigmatic music form, constantly being redefined and recreated, while progressing little from the original blueprint. The genre's beauty and brutality make uneasy partners, and often multi-instrumentalism creates the former, which can detract from the latter. Immortal however, use aggression to generate the atmosphere on `Blizzard Beasts', rejecting subtlety and embracing ferocity.
The sound on `Blizzard Beasts' is understated rather than the usual necro black metal low fidelity buzz. The vocals are buried deep, little more than a whisper over the raging metal maelstrom. The band's initial impact harkens to a less technical Morbid Angel, and second track "Nebular Ravens Winter" revisits Morbid Angel's "Maze Of Torment" in it's blast sections. The Morbid Angel reference is only fleeting, but it appears more than once, reoccurring on "Battlefields". That's not to say Immortal did not have their own sound - far from it. In places, there is a groove of sorts, and the band was a lot heavier than their peers in a traditional metal sense. While Darkthrone and Mayhem stripped their sound of bass, Immortal weren't afraid of a bit of bottom end.
Demonaz's guitars are the most outstanding feature of the album, all razor sharp rawness and spiky riffs. This is the final Immortal album Demonaz performed on, retiring from playing music due to a repetitive strain injury. Listening to his playing, the injury is no surprise. "Suns That Sank Below" is all cascading riffs and crashing percussion. In fact, Demonaz never seems to let up, knowing only one speed to play - flat out. The song even features a short solo, played at breakneck speed of course, and is well buried under Horgh's relentless percussion.
Horgh himself is a corpse painted, bullet belted, beer gutted wrecking machine. Laugh at the man's image and appearance all you like, but don't ever question his ability. Want to hear some of the hardest hitting black metal drumming you'll ever hear? Try "Winter Of The Ages", where the percussion simply lays waste to all else.
"Mountains Of Might" is a slight change of pace, providing an atmospheric introduction followed by a more traditional Metal song, with reasonably well defined riffs, and Abbath speaking rather than screaming. A semi-acoustic mid section proved the band could do more than just play fast, and even though the overall tempo is still rapid, it is slower than the tracks surrounding it. The sound is icy and bare, and clocking in at over six and a half minutes, "Mountains Of Might" has almost an epic feel to it. Almost.
Abbath's demonic croak is early Quorthon all over. Many passages of the album sound Bathory-esque, but at the same time the vocals sound almost chillingly inhuman.
While the moments of subtlety are few and far between, they provide enough contrast on this album to break up what could have been a monotonous half hour long blast beat. Immortal was never a band for delicacy and finesse, and fans wouldn't expect any. Sure, it's far from original, but so what? `Blizzard Beasts' is brutal, fast and unrelenting. That's what Immortal do so well.