Merry almost-Christmas world, and welcome to a very grim and frostbitten holiday edition of The Throwback. As alluded to in the closing paragraph of last week’s article, we are visiting with everyone’s favorite Norwegian band Immortal and their third album Battles In The North. The snowy landscapes the band portray on each of the album’s tracks are exactly what this author thinks of when the holiday season is in full swing, so why not provide the very same atmosphere for the denizens of The Monolith?
So we travel back to a 1995 and that transitional album of Immortal’s; oft-overlooked album, but more than worthy of the band’s name.
The album’s title track leads things off with the duo of Abbath Doom Occulta and Demonaz Doom Occulta at full blast. In those days, Demonaz was the main axeman and Abbath helds down the bass and drums. The battle charge of these never-ending riffs makes for quite the atmosphere and are quite comparable to what was on the band’s previous album, Pure Holocaust. The vocal style here is one of the band’s trademarks along with their unique guitar tone which rips through your eardrums like a sonic buzzsaw through butter. “Grim and Frostbitten Kingdoms” follows this and has become a phrase that is synonymous with the band much like their iconic facepaint. The band proclaims “Cast out from daylight, and from the beaten lands” as you hear what Demonaz was formerly able to do on guitar before acute tendinitis shut him down for good.
As we continue “Throned By Blackstorms” rears its ugly head. The lyrical content is all about ice and snow and the violent embrace that helps to best characterize it. The subtlety of black metal is a very difficult thing to describe to the uninitiated, as this metal genre is all about attention to detail as each listen to a particular song unlocks yet another hidden gem. Finding a slight variation on a riff after repeated listens is why it is perhaps the most rewarding genre for the persistent listener; one who strives to hear each and every note the way it was meant to be heard. “Moonrise Fields Of Sorrow” showcases more of the very same; a fast and furious display of a snowy alternate universe to those spoken of in Tolkien tomes: “Laid in frost, below a bleak sun, under icicled paths, mighty were the fathers of Norsemen, and in us they shall return.”
“Cursed Realms Of Winterdemons” starts off with ominous guitar riffs laid out by the pair, before the proverbial door is kicked in by a powerful Norwegian surge. The titular demons arise slowly from behind slabs of stone and ready themselves to take on the world in battle.
After experiencing each song on this album multiple times, it’s hard to miss the not-so-subtle message: “At The Stormy Gates Of Mist“ continues the folklore to include the birth of an ice dragon and of course the excellent lyric “darkening memories claim that winter never dies”. ”Through The Halls Of Eternity” has a battle gallop without equal and more interwoven riff sections than you can shake a stick at.
Finally, we close out the album with the song that carries the name of the band’s fictional world: “Blashyrkh (Mighty Ravendark)“. Abbath seems dead set on completely decimating the drum kit on this barn burner of a closer; the aforementioned winterdemons are set to take their rightful place as rulers of the land (“Cometh the rightful kings of highest halls, cry of ravens lurk the realm, eternally through the noctambulant grimness”). One would have to imagine this scene would look slightly less ridiculous than the album art for this album. The album closes out quite calmly before Abbath lets loose a primal scream from perhaps Blashyrkh itself; yet their eternal battle continues…
The cold of winter has yet to reach the northeast, however it has already blanketed a large portion of Wisconsin and Michigan among other states so you will be able to appreciate this album for all of its snow ice, and freezing grandeur. Of course the band would release the (mostly) poorly received Blizzard Beasts and introducing new drummer Horgh before regaining form on At The Heart of Winter which saw the departure of Demonaz as a guitar player as he remained only as a credited lyricist. Luckily the band is still very much intact and still puts out quality releases anf even tours (very selectively mind you) from time to time. Feel free to drop me a comment about a band you’d like to see covered, or just leave one as a sign of good faith. For what I’m currently listening to you can always check out my Last.fm page if you like. Of course the only cure for finishing an Immortal album has to be more Immortal of course. See you all next week and Merry Xmas!