When the fabric of a being disintegrates and its core begins to tear away, faith in its longevity fades away and its effectivity is lost. When bands get lost in the labyrinth of legal disputes and founding members depart for pastures new leaving nothing but a gaping wound behind, it’s simple to fall into the mindset that their best days are past them. For second-wave black metal veterans Immortal, Abbath’s departure in favour of solo endeavours has allowed them to rediscover, post-reunion, the black magic that made them such a powerful entity in the mid-nineties, with Northern Chaos Gods coming off as the heaviest and hardest-hitting Immortal album in two decades.
Long-time lyricist Demonaz reclaims the void left by Abbath’s departure via a monolithic return to the band’s musical output as vocalist and guitarist, having finally fixed himself up following an injury that damned the musician to nigh-on an eternity as the band’s chief lyricist and nothing more. Immortal approaches Northern Chaos Gods with the undying passion the mid-nineties Norwegian movement was built on, blast beats detonating destructively over melodically-drenched platinum black metal riffs that rip a hole in your soul and return you to the hellish realm of Blashyrkh.
Life without Abbath allows Demonaz to channel his Bathory-worshipping penchant for straightforward-albeit-sinister black metal, encapsulating the world he’s spent over two decades penning lyrically in such a way musically that Immortal have failed to muster in the past.
The titular opener explodes into a barrage of brain-pummelling beats and razor-sharp riffs that spill blood, the sheer ferocity of Demonaz’s howls personifying drummer Horgh’s war-torn machine gun woes into something altogether terrifying. Uncompromisingly monolithic and unrelentingly expeditious, Into Battle Ride sets the standard of Northern Chaos Gods, proving that old dogs can not only learn new tricks, but rip up the rulebooks and rewrite the blueprint for a sound they helped solidify.
Hypocrisy, PAIN, and Lindemann mastermind Peter Tägtgren blasts out the basslines when duty rarely calls for them, but more importantly brings Immortal’s new-nineties sound to the modern ear with a production that is as traditionally raw as it is massive, filling the caverns of your cranium like the post-gig ringing of the ears without the uncomforting annoyance that accompanies it.
Where Mountains Rise is Northern Chaos God’s highest peak, where blistering blastbeats bruise the wound ripped open by a vocal performance few of black metal’s leaders could deliver, unprecedented levels of precision unleashed via riffs that as heavy as they are melodic. Elsewhere, closer Mighty Ravendark explores the progressive nature of black metal’s past in a nine-minute expedition through the wintery plains of Bergen.
In Northern Chaos Gods, Immortal rediscover the band they were on 1995’s Battles In The North and 1997’s Blizzard Beasts, whilst reinstating the black metal institution as not only founding fathers of the second-wave sound, but as the forward-thinking leaders of its next generation.