Album Review: IMMORTAL Northern Chaos Gods
Once again triumphant, the cry of the Mighty Ravendark has returned to where the heart of winter is one. Silenced for several years, its lament to True Norwegian Black Metal can be heard echoing through the blackened, ice-encased fjords of Norge. Just who is this Mighty Ravendark? Well, it would seem this mystical beast of the blizzard takes on many forms. For nearly a quarter-century, the Mighty Ravendark presented itself in the form of the crab-walking caricature known as one Abbath Doom Occulta. Perched upon mountain high, Abbath's demoniac wail carved the very valleys in which the second-wave of Norwegian black metal was born. There is no doubt his domination and reverence is one that will forever influence the kingdom of northern darkness.
With the dissolution of the Sons Of Northern Darkness back in 2015, we have now entered the epoch of the Northern Chaos Gods. This new era sees Demonaz Doom Occulta defending the Gates of Blashyrkh – his grim and imposing figure looming over the cursed realm of the winterdemons. For the first time in over two decades, Demonaz picks up his meticulously strung battle axe and proceeds to usurp the helm of the mighty Immortal. In what could have easily become a descent into eminent silence with the departure of Abbath has, in fact, produced the exact opposite result with the release of their ninth studio album, Northern Chaos Gods.
One by one, Demonaz and his tyrants (which includes long-time drummer Horgh, and session bassist Peter Tägtgren) blast through all eight grim and frostbitten tracks with a ferocity and blackened dynamism not heard since their classic At The Heart Of Winter album nearly twenty years earlier. Where the last recorded output from Immortal (2009's All Shall Fall) had only a couple of truly memorable tracks (with the title track being, up to that point, one of their finest moments), the rest of the album seemed to meander aimlessly, lost in the cold winds of funeral frost.
Like a mountain of might, Northern Chaos Gods opens with an unholy force of glaciation in the title track. It clearly, defiantly, showcases the thunderous ferocity of its pummeling Marduk-like battefield metal. With zero respite, listeners are then thrust into the frostdemonstorm that is second track "Into Battle Ride". It's clear, by this point, that Demonaz is no less astute behind both guitar and mic than his predecessor. In fact, there is a precision and decisiveness to his performance that recalls the cold, clinical northern icewinds that were Immortal's early years – something sorely lacking from the band's catalog since the start of the millenium, where things began to take on a temperate/full sound, with more emphasis on solar-blanket snuggles than the frigid, Antarctic-like soundscapes of yore.
As the album storms into its midsection, things take on a slightly more subdued tone. Tracks such as " Gates To Blashyrkh", "Grim And Dark", and "Where Mountains Rise" recall the mid-paced viking stomp of Demonaz's solo effort, March Of The Norse (itself taking cues from Abbath's I, and his stellar Between Two Worlds from 2006). As a result, Northern Chaos Gods, much like these various enterprises, traverses, with ease, the deadliest of snow-capped peaks while unsilent storms of the northern abyss rage on. Speaking of abyss, the album was once again recorded and mixed at Abyss Studios, by the very man plucking the four string – the aforementioned Peter Tägtgren (Hypocrisy, Pain).
With the return of the Mighty Ravendark, it comes as no surprise, then, that Immortal would choose to honor the mighty one's second-coming with perhaps the most epic song ever recorded by any black metal band ever… the fittingly-titled "Mighty Ravendark". As an album closer, this song is the epitome of crepuscular perfection. Remember when you first heard the epic chorus of "All Shall Fall" from the band's last studio album? Remember the accompanying video – black metal nobility performing upon mountaintop? Well, dear reader, multiply that by 10,000 diabolical fullmoons casting ghastly hues through red clouds and holocaustwinds. Yes. It is that epic.
I really do hate myself for what I am about to say; but, I gotta be blunt: Demonaz, with this song alone, puts to shame anything on Abbath's debut solo effort from a couple of years back. Nothing on that album even comes close to the black metal majesty that is "Mighty Ravendark". Truly, I'm at a loss for words to describe how towering and masterfully epic this song actually is. So, I'm gonna shut the hell up and let you experience this masterstroke of True Norwegian Black Metal for yourself.
All hail the epoch of the Northern Chaos Gods and the return of the Mighty Ravendark!