Immortal - _Damned in Black_
by: Alvin Wee (
The frostbitten caverns of Blashyrk are working overtime as the Undying Ones spew out yet another holocaust not a year later than the last. I met this album with trepidation, fearing that my devotion to the band (especially after _At The Heart of Winter_ [CoC #39]) would be shattered by a hasty, under-worked piece. Which isn't saying much. Darkthrone may be considerably prolific in their work, but a more elaborate concept like Immortal requires more work to avoid ending up like latter-day Abigor. The effort that was put into _ATHoW_ was apparent in the music, and likewise, the fact that _DiB_ is a rushed job cannot be hidden. Top notch production and irreproachable musicianship is inevitable, coming from such a label/band pairing. The inimitable style on _ATHoW_ is reprised here, with somewhat thrashy riffs filling up gaps in what could otherwise pass off as an unfinished _ATHoW_ prototype. Now a three-piece (with the addition of bassist Iscariah), Immortal have upped the brutality level a notch from their previous outing, but in doing so seem to have lost a tad of effectiveness. The opening segment to "In Our Mystic Visions Black", for example, harks back to the days of _Battles in the North_ and the dissonant adjoining riff is a far cry from the enveloping majesty on _ATHoW_. Fans of their "holocaust-days" might appreciate the harsher melodies on tracks like "Triumph", and Horgh's occasionally manic pummeling admittedly adds an edge to their music. But Immortal, despite their reputation for being hyperfast and brutal-as-fuck, also have the potential to create monumental atmospheres, as the previous album proves. And the major fault on _DiB_ is that this enthralling dramaticism is consistently broken up by out-of-place disharmonic segments. Atmosphere created by towering passages like the motif on the title track, or intense riffs on "Against the Tide", are destroyed by disharmonic, inappropriate thrash riffing. Unlike _ATHoW_, the listener is never drawn intop the icy world of untrodden majesty the lyrics evoke. Instead, _DiB_ is a rather rough ride across rocky battlefields and wastelands. All said, _DiB_ bears the undeniable mark of vastly experienced and talented musicians, from whom any album should receive no less than a near-perfect score. But, disappointingly short (33 minutes), _DiB_ is no doubt the result of rushed, under-worked material. While still an excellent album by any standards, it's only respectful to say that Immortal are capable of far greater things. The sudden release of this album in a beautiful limited edition cardboard casing of 15000 (!) copies should set cash registers ringing, regardless of what we reviewers have to say.
(article published 25/5/2000)
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