Northern Darkness Descends
Immortal & Hypocrisy
Mean Fiddler (formerly London Astoria 2), London, 10th of April, 2002

by: Paul Schwarz
It seems that many punters arrived early to catch openers Warhammer -- Germany's dim reflection of, rather than answer -to-, Hellhammer -- because when Hypocrisy initiate their set with head-down, melodic-chorused thrasher "Don't Judge Me" -- the opening cut on their recently released eighth album, the musical embodiment of Peter Tagtgren's cathartic backlash against the forces that sought to make him, his -name-, a commodity, _Catch 22_ -- a well-stocked mosh-pit is there to welcome them. Hypocrisy are on fine form. Though obviously enjoying their first visit to UK shores, the Swedes aren't slacking off. They give it all they've got -- and though occasionally they come across a little workmanlike, Hypocrisy acquit themselves amply, proving that their semi-charmed status in Europe hasn't made them soft. The somewhat indulgent Hypocrisy who frustrated me at 1999's March Metal Metldown [CoC #40] are nowhere to be found; though, naturally, the likes of "Penetralia" and "Pleasure of Molestation" invigorate me more than "Apocalypse" or anything off 1999's dry, almost ironic, _Hypocrisy_ [CoC #41] ever could, Hypocrisy don't let their guard down. They give it to us straight -- and with mosh-friendly stormers like "Destroyed" in their live sets, Hypocrisy may well win a few new friends. But the old-guard need not worry: the delivery of devil-worship-driven old favourites like "Impotent God" was every bit as devastating as that of _Abducted_ well-known "Roswell 47", if not more so. Even with an eight-album back-catalogue to account for, and a mere forty minutes to perform, Hypocrisy manage to play a well-balanced yet cleanly-focussed show. That alone is impressive. Here's hoping they're back for a more extensive (tonight's package has but one more date, the tour's -second-, in the UK) headlining tour before the year is out.

It is pleasing to see that, even after ten years, Immortal haven't stopped appearing live, and on album covers, in corpsepaint. Not because "black metallers should wear corpsepaint"; because -Immortal- should. It suits them; they suit it. Especially now. _At the Heart of Winter_ [CoC #39] partially reinvented Immortal. There was a feeling of "rock"; before _AtHoW_, Immortal had felt wholeheartedly, unflinchingly black metal -- well, death metal on _Blizzard Beasts_ [CoC #19], but that's an Immortal album best forgotten. Immortal still weren't flinching from black metal -- -those- photos, those ridiculous, marvellous photos of Abbath and Horgh which accompanied _AtHoW_ more than confirmed any suspicions to the contrary -- but unintentionally -- though not shamefully, in my view -- the Norwegians had become a visual parody of themselves which displaced their ties to the over-serious, "true" black metal crowd and simultaneously reaffirmed why corpsepaint works "seriously" for Immortal. I don't really understand it myself, but it's a fact as far as I'm concerned. In the end it's neither here nor there, really: Immortal's music has always remained steadfastly serious. Unfortunately, 2000's _Damned in Black_ [CoC #47] was seriously lacking; thankfully, _Sons of Northern Darkness_ has just made up for it -- no, scratch that, _SoND_ has just -eradicated- it, erasing Immortal from my bad books in the process. A pity, then, that Immortal choose to open with two _DiB_ numbers -- though it does mean that the worst part of tonight's performance is over and done with early. "One by One" leads the real charge into tonight's battle (from the north), Immortal affirming in deed what they claim in word: to be the "Sons of Northern Darkness". Immortal today are a punishingly powerful three-piece who've mixed a black metal mainline -- their central musical blood-vein -- with more established rock songwriting styles. The corpsepaint is part of Immortal the way the make-up was part of KISS or the biking leathers were part of 'Priest: a defining part of them. It's not as confrontational in its campness; that wouldn't swing with Immortal's audience any more than it would swing with Immortal. If there's camp here, it's under the surface -- not forthrightly a part of the band who take to the Mean Fiddler stage, and set it aflame. Heavy metal is most definitely Immortal's way. Drummer Horgh pounds his kit precisely, decorating brutal compositions with stunning breaks and, on stage, adds just the dash of showmanship needed to spice things up without letting ego get in the way of performance. It's as Abbath wrings the last signs of distorted life from his guitar to usher in "Blashyrk (Mighty Ravendark)"'s final sections (that acoustic-infused calm before the storm of the song's full-fury finish) that the pure, -possessed- emotion of Immortal's performance finally hits home. Sure, they finished a few songs with rock 'n' roll-style endings and Abbath paused on many occasions to exploit the crowd's ecstatic appreciation; but it was all in the name of making a great -performance-, into a great -gig-. Immortal didn't pose -- they didn't walk onstage with the ridiculous weapons they brandish on the cover of _SoND_, for example -- but they did accept and exploit, in the -right- way, their position of power. Even though they chose to include not a single song from _Pure Holocaust_, I wasn't disappointed by Immortal's performance -- which got the Mean Fiddler rocking like I've rarely seen it, even without the aid of recently-departed bassist Iscariah. Coming from someone who ranks _Pure Holocaust_ among their favourite black metal records, that really is saying a lot. Don't ignore Immortal for the wrong reasons: they are one of the few truly great contemporary metal bands on their way -up-, and with a US tour with Manowar currently scheduled for later this year, who knows what height they might reach? I'll be watching -- not to mention -listening- -- with interest. That much is for sure.

(article submitted 3/7/2002)

RSS Feed RSS   Facebook Facebook   Twitter Twitter  ::  Mobile : Text  ::  HTML : CSS  ::  Sitemap

All contents copyright 1995-2024 their individual creators.  All rights reserved.  Do not reproduce without permission.

All opinions expressed in Chronicles of Chaos are opinions held at the time of writing by the individuals expressing them.
They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of anyone else, past or present.