Immortal - _Sons of Northern Darkness_
(Nuclear Blast, 2002)
by: Paul Schwarz (
The number of times I've spun _SoND_ since receiving it three months ago must quickly be approaching a hundred: that should give you some idea (if the points rating above hadn't already) of just how thoroughly excellent Immortal's seventh full-length album is. _SoND_ is a grower; it will provoke a whole range of feelings in listeners new or old before either fully appreciates what a titanic prospect Immortal have become -- but if you peel off the frozen layers of their snow-covered sound, you'll find that inside Immortal's collective chest, a heart of steel proudly beats away. Combining an incredible talent for effectively harnessing dynamics with a superb grasp of how to utilise melody subtly but to great effect, Immortal deliver blow after deadly blow of bludgeoningly brilliant music with the kind of maximal combination of precision and passion that is rarely seen -- and, when encountered, rightly savoured. Immortal have become the embodiment of the fury and the fire of black metal channeled through a songwriting approach which harks back to more than the rough and ready beginnings of the style's core influences -- bands like Bathory and Celtic Frost, who always wrote -songs- in some sense, but whose more unusual divergences black metal has not always caught on to. This is not to suggest that Immortal have become or are becoming avant-garde, for they are certainly not. Someone, probably Abbath -- he is deemed primary songwriter now -- has evidently absorbed a fair amount of mid-'70s prog over the years -- the top-class instrumental beginning of "Antarctica" (where crucial sections are underlined by rich acoustic guitar and keyboard harmonies) is even reminiscent of the "Overture" section of Rush's mammoth "2112". But even here, Immortal haven't gone the whole hog. They're not screwing seriously with timings or even experimenting rampantly. If _SoND_ reveals anything definitive about Immortal, it's that at the heart of their winter is a lump of -solid-, -heavy-, -metal- -- and one so cold that anything touching it will have to struggle to tear itself away. Most of Immortal's development of their signature sound -- for in my opinion, Immortal -are- individuated enough to be said to have "their own sound" -- has been inspired from within metal itself. Inspiration has been taken from a broader base than the one which originally inspired Norwegian black metal. Of course, Immortal aren't the first band -- from the genre or the country -- to have successfully broadened their horizons, but for my money they have become the first black metal band to have comprehensively transformed the essence of the '90s, Norwegian-born sound into a truly, -traditionally- classic form: _SoND_ is a true classic of a metal album. With aggression spawned in the '80s and amped by the '90s, Immortal have made one of -those- records: an album so metal and so good, that considerations of context, progression, originality and style fade away, and only pure, exultant enjoyment is left. [Alvin Wee: "If _AtHoW_ showcased Immortal's sweeping new sound, _Sons of Northern Darkness_ is the near-perfect culmination of the band's grandiose vision. Mighty and monumental in scope, the atmosphere and power on this album is unparalleled in recent times. Certainly a major contender for album of the year."][Pedro Azevedo: "_Sons of Northern Darkness_ could well be the album that marks Immortal's coming of age. Not that I regard their past efforts as puerile, but on _SoND_ the band is able to show all the confidence required to pace themselves instead of rushing into things, therefore delivering their music with a remarkable mix of might and maturity. Their particular style of epic black metal comes across as both refined and frostily evocative on _SoND_, moreso than ever before. This turns this album into the culmination of Immortal's career so far and one that everyone who enjoys extreme metal should at least give a chance. Now I can almost forgive them for their silly band photos..."]
(article published 7/3/2002)
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