IMMORTAL — Sons of Northern Darkness (review)

IMMORTAL — Sons of Northern Darkness album cover Album · 2002 · Black Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
Not long ago I said to a friend that I was not interested in Norwegian black metal but that I had ordered Peter Beste's coffee table book of the Norwegian black metal scene because I was interested in the photography and the culture. A month later I was trying to decide which would be good albums as starters into this notorious and dark music scene. Another friend suggested Immortal's “Sons of Northern Darkness” and I decided to take his advice and added it to my first four black metal albums.

As it has turned out, I have become interested in Immortal. Abbath is such a character, and Immortal's fantasy northern winter world is a little more comfortable to me than all the hail Satan lyrics that I imagine are lurking out there in the world of Norwegian black metal. Not that I am offended for religious reasons but rather I quickly tire of any pontificating in music lyrics, be they religious or political. When I read that many of the lyrics of Immortal's songs were inspired by the Norwegian winter scenery, the forests and the mountains, I felt I could understand that much better.

First off, I like the sound of this album. The guitar tone is not really heavy but together with the bass the two instruments weigh in together pretty heavily. The drumming is solid and the double bass is put to good use without being relied upon too much. The opening track, “One by One” is a great way to kick off the album and grab my interest as a new listener. It's a great thundering, epic-sounding track. The album continues in a similar vein with “Demonium” offering some blast beats and a speedy tempo in parts, a style I think is more like their older work based on what I have heard from “Pure Holocaust” and “Battles in the North”.

Each of the eight songs here has its own sound and style, making it easy to differentiate between tracks even after the first couple of listens. I find some extreme metal bands follow the same recipe for destruction song after song and sometimes I wonder what ever happened to making albums like “Screaming for Vengeance” or “Number of the Beast” where each song was a creation independent of other tracks and sounded that way. The songs on this album are distinct enough from one another and I am glad for that.

I will say that by the time we are half way through “Antarctica” the fascination with frost, ice, snow, coldness, and bleakness is starting to wear a little thin for me. This track and the album closer, “Beyond the North Waves” are good enough on their own but listening to the album through, I find myself approaching the “meh” stage before “Antarctica” is over. Still, a consistent album in sound and atmosphere.

Finally, I want to comment on Abbath's vocals. I was surprised at how similar they are to Quorthon's of Bathory. Then later I checked out more black metal bands and I have come to the conclusion that Quorthon inspired a whole movement of vocal style. In one part of “Demonium” when the song is charging along, Abbath vocalizes something that immediately reminded me of Popeye the Sailor. That has stuck with me now, too. And so if death metal vocals can be called Cookie Monster vocals then I think black metal vocals could be called Popeye vocals. Or perhaps they already are. Well, if anything, Immortal made me want to go out and buy another Bathory album.

Anyway, “Sons of Northern Darkness” is good enough that I want to get a couple more Immortal albums. And Abbath is such a funny character to see in interviews!
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