IMMORTAL — Northern Chaos Gods (review)

IMMORTAL — Northern Chaos Gods album cover Album · 2018 · Black Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
adg211288
When Norwegian black metal act Immortal first disbanded back in 2003 after seven studio albums, they left behind a pretty great legacy, ending on career high note Sons of Northern Darkness (2002). Their later reunion in 2006 resulted in a solid if not exceptional comeback album, All Shall Fall (2009), but then the band went another long stretch without a new album. Then, in 2015, something unthinkable happened: the band's two key members, Abbath and Demonaz (who hadn't been able to play with them since 1997 due to severe tendinitis, which was surgically corrected in 2013), had some sort of bust up. This resulted in Abbath going off to start his self-titled project, which released its debut album in 2016, and Demonaz officially restarted Immortal again in 2015, consisting of just him and drummer Horgh. Demonaz returns to his original instrument, guitar, and also takes over the lead vocalist role from Abbath, with bass handled by guest musicians Peter TÃĪgtgren (Hypocrisy).

Now I for one was pretty sceptical about this whole thing, I admit it. Demonaz had previous laid down lead vocals in his self-titled project back in 2011 and didn't give the kind of performance that I personally felt would have fit in with Immortal's more aggressive form of black metal music. That's not to say that they were bad, just different, especially considering that Abbath has one of the most distinctive growling voices in the scene and has always been an aspect of Immortal's music that has set them apart from other black metal acts. Sure enough, on Northern Chaos Gods (2018), Immortal's ninth album and first and only without Abbath, Demonaz doesn't deliver anywhere near as distinctive sounding growls as the former frontman. They also fit in here much better than those on Demonaz's March of the Norse (2011) led me to expect they would. Combined with some really furious black metal riffing, Immortal's Abbath-less comeback may just be the most aggressive album they've ever released.

That's the good part. There's also a problem. And that's that with Abbath or without him, lyricist Demonaz has long written extensively about his own Blashyrkh theme and now that we're nine Immortal albums deep, he's starting to really show signs of scraping the barrel. Throughout Northern Chaos Gods and it's eight tracks, you'll continually hear phrases that have been heard before across Immortal records and even though the music itself provides an absolute beast of an album, it does feel just that bit stale now because of the lyrics. Even the title is taken directly from Immortal's popular track One by One, the opener from Sons of Northern Darkness while closer Mighty Ravendark was actually used before as part of Blashyrkh (Mighty Ravendark) on their third album Battles in the North (1995). Furthermore, there's also Gates to Blashyrkh on this album. It all feels a bit of 'been there, done that'.

In spite of that issue, it's clear that Northern Chaos Gods is a far superior album to Abbath's 2016 self-titled effort, so if nothing else, Demonaz most certainly wins round one of their post-collaboration careers. Immortal just needs a bit more originally in their lyrics in the future though, as for the first for me they prove a distraction when listening to their music, summoning memories of past glories with Abbath up front rather than allowing me to fully invest in this Demonaz fronted new incarnation of the legendary band, without otherwise does a damn fine job of proving itself a viable venture for Demonaz and Horgh. For the music alone, Northern Chaos Gods is still worth a respectable four stars though.
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