356: IMMORTAL

As one of the original giants of the second wave of black metal, Immortal always set themselves apart from their peers by eschewing the stereotypes and avoiding satanic themes. Instead, their lyrics dealt with dark fantasy, specifically Blashyrkh, a fictional realm of demons and permanent winter.

While the band has seen a considerable turnover of members in its thirty years, the core members were usually Abbath, Demonaz, and Horgh – though only one album (97’s ‘Blizzard Beasts’) saw all three in the band at the same time – though, even after stepping back from the guitar due to tendon disorder in his hands, Demonaz has always written Immortal’s lyrics. So, yes, the Immortal roster has at times been quite messy, yet somehow the music never has been.

Immortal’s strength and importance as one of black metal’s true legends is undeniable. Fronted by Abbath, they released seven incredible albums between 1991 and 2002. These included some truly iconic albums, such as ‘Pure Holocaust’. The last few albums of this period also incorporated thrash metal influences, helping to popularise the blackened thrash sound.

After Immortal broke up in 2003, Abbath and Demonaz went on to form ‘I’ and Immortal remained dormant for some time. However, after a reunion and some successful touring, the decision was made to record another album. In 2009, Immortal released ‘All Shall Fall, a return to their black metal roots. It was successful and well received by critics and fans alike.

Unfortunately due to ongoing trademark disputes and legal turmoil within the band, Abbath left Immortal in 2015, leaving the future of the band (and the fate of a supposedly in-production ninth album) in doubt.

In January 2018, Immortal announced that work on the ninth album had been completed. Demonaz had returned to the guitar for the first time in about twenty years, and for the first time ever would take on vocal duties. There was an obvious trepidation about the impending release by fans and critics. Some wondered what an Immortal without Abbath could even be, and Demonaz was an unknown variable at this point.

In July of that year, Immortal released ‘Northern Chaos Gods’ and, yeah, I’ll admit it. My concerns were misplaced. ‘Northern Chaos Gods’ is, for my money, Immortal’s best work. And even though there are those who disagree, most agree the album is among their best work and and absolutely peak Immortal. It continued the grand black metal sound of ‘All Shall Fall’, carried on the tried and true formula of Blashyrkh, but also breathed new life into the Immortal legacy.

Unfortunately it’s unclear if we will ever hear from Immortal again, as internal legal disputes have again reared their head – this time between Demonaz and Horgh. I hope everything can be resolved though, because if ‘Northern Chaos Gods’ taught us anything, it’s that there’s life yet in this ice-cold black metal leviathan.