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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Immortal

The Sons of Northern Darkness

Review by Mike Korn

Forget all your preconceptions when listening to this disk. Ignore the fairly cheesy look of the band, which screams "Norwegian Black Metal" in giant Gothic letters. Banish whatever you have heard of Immortal in the past. Just slip this disc in and prepare to be transported to another time and place, as these three face-painted warriors unleash an absolute metallic masterpiece!

"The Sons of Northern Darkness" sees one of the original Black Metal bands of the 90's reach a new level of power and maturity. The CD comes across as nothing less than a magnificent metal soundtrack, one brimming with a feeling of ancient glory and battles in the frozen waste. It is really amazing how these guys use heavy metal instruments and songs to create a different world. The whole thing is heavier than hell but never is it noise for noise's sake. The song structures and riffing are extremely unconventional and quite original but never so bizarre that you can't easily grab onto the songs within. The production by Peter "Hypocrisy" Tagtgren is beyond perfect...the bass playing of Iscariah rumbles like the thunder of the Gods, Horgh's battering-ram drumming is ferociously LOUD and, above all, the guitar work of Abbath produces some of the most original and unpredictable sounds I've heard in metal. Hell, even Abbath's croaking vocals, the most obvious remnant of their black metal heritage, are strong, clear and accentuate the music!

"Sons of Northern Darkness" reveals several influences, from 80's style thrash riffing to the complexity of early Rush epics like "Xanadu" to the Viking-style power of late period Bathory. All is seamlessly blended to create the Immortal sound, one which they have been trying to perfect since "At the Heart of Winter" but haven't really achieved until now. This is truly a masterful album for those who like their metal really heavy but with brilliant playing and songwriting as well. I give it my biggest recommendation!

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2002 Year Book Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
One By One
What a killer opening salvo! It races along like a thunderbolt, switching easily from riff to brilliant riff. There is lots of 80's thrash feel here, a little bit like what Metallica used on "Creeping Death" and "The Four Horsemen", but coming across as totally Immortal in style. The song is as sharp and dangerous as a Norseman's axe.
Sons of Northern Darkness
This keeps the pace fairly fast for the most part. It has traces of that classic black metal sound of the early 90's but is much easier to digest. As always, Abbath cranks out some catchy power riffing.
Tyrants
Now, this one took a while to grow on me, but it finally sank in and hooked me good. It's slower paced and very cold in feeling. "Glacial Sludge" is what I would call it, with some tricky guitar playing. I love that heavy doom riff on the chorus part, with Abbath croaking "Uggggh! We are the Tyrants!". It is a subtle and powerful tune.
Demonium
The fastest track on the record, this is fairly brief and unleashes a whirlwind of precise guitar picking. Though it boasted some more unique and catchy chords, I would say this is probably the least enjoyable tune here, though not bad by any means.
Within the Dark Mind
Pure power oozes from the opening of this song. It gets tiresome to praise the deadly efficiency of Immortal's approach, but there is hardly a wasted note here. Horgh's drumming is superb. The tune bristles with that "medieval" feeling.
In My Kingdom Cold
Cold is the word. As a whole, the band is obsessed with wintry subjects, but the sound of the guitar tone and the riffing here really does conjure up an icy feel. A very complex and unconventionally structured tune, it's like an aural adventure where you can picture scenes in your mind. The tempo ranges from laid back to furious. As with "Tyrants", the lyrical hook is deceptively unforgettable.
Antarctica
Not only is this the dominating song of the album, it ranks as one of the best heavy songs I have ever heard PERIOD! It's an indescribably powerful epic that will have true metal-heads in a frenzy. Starting from a mellow beginning, it erupts with some of the most titanic, majestic riffs ever recorded. When the track finally explodes into the vocal part, I guarantee you will be absolutely blown away! The only drawback to the tune is it goes to a mellow part about 2/3 of the way through and never really recovers the original feel. But what a monster song! It is a prodigious achievement for any band!
Beyond the North Waves
You can almost imagine the Vikings going to war when you hear this powerful anthem. Starting with some beautifully weird guitar that sounds like it was played underwater, it turns into a deliberately paced slower tempo with an extremely powerful kick. Like a "Conan" soundtrack gone metal, it reminded me of some of the stuff from Bathory's "Hammerheart" album. The last third of the tune opens up for some guitar soloing and has a kind of progressive feel to it. Although not as mind-blowing as "Antarctica", it's a strong finish to an outstanding record.
 
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