This album is Abbath’s statement that he alone is big enough to be successful without using the Immortal band logo. After a minimally-publicized split between him and the other Immortal members that still left many of us with question marks over their heads, Abbath VERY quickly put this together. He recruited the drummer from Benighted (who left soon after the album’s release), and legendary ex-Gorgoroth bassist, King, almost immediately after Immortal had publicized his departure and less than a month later put a single up on the web for the world to hear. Considering that Abbath was more or less the main songwriter for Immortal (him and Horgh collaborated), it can be safely assumed that the sound that came naturally before is the sound that will continue to come naturally. Except the vein of black metal that this album sticks to is less atmospheric and more of a harsh and raw sound like Damned in Black and Sons of Northern Darkness. With that said, the music from a number of these tracks could possibly be ones that Abbath had originally written and were intended for use on the next Immortal album before his departure.
Taking all of Immortal’s discography into consideration, my expectations for this album are automatically going to be very high. Why the hell should I expect anything less than Abbath’s best? ESPECIALLY when it’s all about him now. But do we want something different from Abbath? Or do we want him to basically carry Immortal’s flag since he was the key member in the first place? Honestly I’m pretty sure that the majority of us want both, but only to a certain extent. I, on the other hand, am leaning MUCH more towards the “Immortal 2.0” side. I want the next Immortal album, not something totally different. But, of course, within reason, because artists will do what they want.
Every Immortal album tends to start with something really fast; usually the fastest song off the album is the first track. The first track that Abbath gives us is a fairly mid-paced headbanging track with some fast thrashy parts spewed throughout the duration. Is it a good opener? Well it’s definitely something we aren’t used to hearing but it doesn’t sound like something that was slapped together so okay, we’ll go with it. It has almost everything that I could ask from Abbath, except for the coldness. I know that “cold” is a really odd word to describe music with, but the main attraction that I have to black metal is the “cold” atmosphere that many of the genre’s creators manage to deliver. It’s almost beyond words but that’s a term that is used by many fans and metalheads to describe the grim atmosphere that makes black metal what it is. But either way, the slow chugging riff will leap out at you and grab your attention into a slew of headbanging until Winter Bane pulls you under the surface of the ice.
Winter Bane feels like an Immortal song. It feels cold and grim, it’s fast, it has a little bit of groove (something that Abbath really experimented with in Sons of Northern Darkness), and the bassline is one of the best I’ve heard in any black metal song since I first started listening to music. Also on top of that, I might mention that the section that occurs after the acoustic guitar solo is probably going to end up being one of my favorite headbanging riffs of the year. The song takes a complete change in tone and atmosphere by adding the melody and guitar leads that made All Shall Fall so amazing.
Abbath’s vocals obviously haven’t changed…why the fuck would they? Who would want anything other than Popeye telling you stories about mythical beings flying around the frost-covered forests and mountains of Norway? Could they use to be a bit louder? Yes…all of the instruments are so loud that they’re partially drowning out Abbath’s vocals. And this seems to be a problem in a lot of the music that I listen to…the vocals are drowned out by the rest of the band. I like it when the vocals are just a tiny bit louder than the rest of the band; I’m not the biggest fan of the “wall of sound” style of mixing music unless it’s a really ambient style of music.
What continues to impress me with this album is how much the Benighted drummer blends in. It sounds as if the Irish Kevin Foley has been playing black metal his entire career. But then again, after looking through his resume, it seems that his work as a live fill-in drummer covers a HUGE diversity of different styles. He’s done live drums for a wide array of bands such as Decapitated, Sabaton, Sepultura, Nightmare, and Destinity. But most of his history is in grindcore, punk, and brutal death. Why Abbath picked Kevin out of all the drummers in the world to be in his band? The only reason I can think of is that they had been friends for quite some time and Abbath knew that he could get the job done right. And obviously he knew that Kevin could get shit done right because the drums are fucking amazing in every single song.
Instead of having only majority rule over the drawing board, we get to see Abbath take a completely fresh, new canvas and paint exactly what he wants to see without anything holding him down. We get to hear this man create exactly what we wanted to hear: something that proves that he really is who he is. Every single song on the album pins you to the wall with such speed and aggression yet STILL manages to leave room for melody and brass linings. At the end of each song, you don’t feel as if the wood fire was put out early, our beloved Abbath avoids cutting corners and burns the wood down to ashes every single time until there is nothing left to burn. Every song on its own feels complete, yet when put together, the ends and beginnings of each song stick together just enough to create a complete 40-minute vine of madness and beauty. I’m giving this album 19/20. I can’t wait to hear what else Abbath has to offer because he shows no signs of stopping.