Nine years have passed since Immortal’s last studio release, All Shall Fall. Nine years which has seen protracted legal wrangling over the band’s name and founder member Abbath set sail under his own flag, to varying degrees of success. And at several points during that long lay-off, you’d have been forgiven for thinking that nothing bearing the Immortal moniker would ever emerge again.
Yet here they are in 2018, with a record that takes us back to the ferocity of albums like Battles In The North – and an opus which does not suffer one bit from Abbath’s absence.
Why? Because Demonaz – taking on both guitar and vocal duties – sounds like a man reborn, having beaten back the tendonitis which put paid to his axework for much of Immortal’s career. Joined by longtime sticksman Horgh, he’s seemingly put years of frustration to good use, penning a record that’s as sharp as a shard of ice and has plenty of demonic fire in its belly.
The melodic subtleties of Where Mountains Rise take the track into Immortal’s noughties material (no bad thing) and Blacker Of Worlds and Mighty Raven Dark’s dramatic dynamics stride close to Sons Of Northern Darkness. But Northern Chaos Gods does not pick up where 2009’s All Shall Fall left off. Instead Demonaz and Horgh (accompanied by session bassist Peter Tägtgren) take a more direct route to Blashyrkh – the fictional kingdom long featured in the band’s lyrics. They blaze away with blastbeat powered, black metal fury on the title track and barely let you catch your breath before Into Battle Ride sends flurry after flurry of barbed riffs into the churning maelstrom. OK, Grim And Dark could be accused of being a little Immortal-by-numbers, but it’s still a finely sculpted piece of BM, driven on relentlessly by Horgh’s percussive onslaught.
Indeed, you’ll find that low points are few and far between on Northern Chaos Gods – this is an album of freezing, windswept peaks, where Immortal’s banner is held aloft for all to witness.
As comebacks go, it will take some beating…