Following a somewhat acrimonious split with former Immortal guitarist/vocalist Abbath, the renowned ensemble were suddenly reduced to a duo revolving around the highly talented drummer Horgh and skilled songwriter Demonaz (guitars, vocals, and lyrics). Fans, critics, and even the casual listeners were skeptical and many had doubts as to whether Immortal would be able to continue with just the two aforementioned members manning the ship. It is therefore with a sense of both pride and relief to be able to state that the sparkling and icy cold new offering entitled Northern Chaos Gods is a stellar album that may well be one of the very best ones released under the famous moniker yet. All the naysayers and disbelievers can say whatever the fuck they want, but the eight gems that constitute the album have certainly been worth the wait and mark the dawn of a new and exciting chapter in the wintry Immortal saga.
Northern Chaos Gods hearkens back to the first few records by the band but in no way does it sound regressive or pastiche. Rather, it is a proud and muscular piece of work that encapsulates what Immortal are all about while simultaneously refining the very essence of the band’s sound and expression. In that sense, it looks to both the past and the future, which is not an easy thing to balance or attain, but the strength of the songwriting alone is simply undeniable and the fact that the album sounds authentic and spirited speaks volumes about the amount of hard work and focus that Demonaz and Horgh have poured into the creation of this vile musical beast of theirs. There is a sense of texture and depth to the album that has been missing for more years than yours truly care to count, but on top of that it is so cool to bear witness to the return of that unique sense of otherworldliness that coursed through Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticism and Battles in the North. What a treat it is to experience that again. Yours truly is well aware of the fact that he sounds like a conservative metal dick here, but not since the murky 90s have these Norwegians sounded as furious and disciplined as they do here.
The thrash metal parts and rock ‘n’ roll elements that have permeated pretty much every Immortal album since the dawn of the millennium have luckily been reduced and instead we are offered vicious riffs and utterly moody melodies that slice like a goddamn razor. Northern Chaos Gods is not about having a good time or drinking beer with your buddies; it is purely about strong and prevalent atmospheres that one can immerse onself in as well as the idea of embarking on a musical journey to realms and kingdoms that exist somewhere beyond the bleak horizons that engulf everyday existence. The soungs are stirring and intriguing as evidenced by the riveting ‘Mighty Ravendark‘ and the dense ‘Gates to Blashyrkh‘. Other standouts include the majestic ‘Where Mountains Rise‘ and the thrilling (or is that chilling?) ‘Called to Ice‘. The raging title track also deserves praise for being all-out face-melting.
Immortal’s new found brand of powerful black metal is not only inspiring, but also captivating. They are clearly not trying to compete with younger or tougher bands out there but have instead chosen to follow their own blackened hearts and craft a magnificent album that displays musical growth and finesse. To cut a long story short, Immortal clearly still have plenty to offer and Northern Chaos Gods is a demonic delight. Welcome back.