The story of Immortal seems to be a little more fragile than their name may suggest. Surprisingly the ever-strong icon of Black Metal, Abbath, split from Immortal and the future of the band seemed to hang in limbo. For a while it would seem that Immortal would be no more and that Abbath would continue music under his own name Abbath. However, in August 2015 it was announced that Demonaz would return to guitars, which would be his first time doing so since 1997, as well as to sing for the band. Reportedly, Demonaz’s departure from guitars was due to an injury he had sustained making it difficult for him to continue playing guitars for the band. So, to say that Northern Chaos Gods, the bands ninth studio album and first since 2009’s All Shall Fall, would mark a huge turning point for the band is an understatement. There would certainly be changes.
Notably, and fortunately, Northern Chaos Gods remains recognisably Immortal. Boasting a chilling Black Metal sound that harpers back to the early days of Black Metal and the extreme riffs borrowed from the darkest of Thrash Metal titans. Immortal have used long moments of heavy guitars that feels utterly unique to them and boasted a sense of atmosphere with some slower picking that feels chilling like winter. This guitar work is most notable on songs like ‘Called to Ice’ and ‘Grim and Dark’, feeling like we have the signature sounds back to an immortal Black Metal band.
Despite this, Demonaz’s vocals don’t quite carry the same charisma and distinct evil sounding gutturals that Abbath’s does. This marks one of the most notable changes within the band as Immortal continue to evolve. Instead Demonaz has a rough sound that feels quite generic compared with many other Black Metal bands, he doesn’t exactly fall from the mark, but he doesn’t exceed it either. This continues to the production values that feel like a step down from chilling sounds of All Shall Fall instead favouring a rough and almost chaotic vibe. This can actually work in favour for the band’s sound, but feels at odds with previous albums.
Ultimately, we knew Immortal would change, we knew it would sound different. What we’ve got works as an album and continues the Immortal sound into their new incarnation. However, it fails to live up to the standard that they’ve set for themselves.Immortal shall live but there’ll be a cost. We shall see a lot more from the band but taking a different road to anything they’ve done before.