“Rule all that comes to eye/ uphold the might/ gates to Blashyrkh/ profane majestic realm/ unearthly kingdom/ mighty ravendark/ with everblowing winds/ this realm consumes the light” – from “Unearthly Kingdom” by Immortal
I can hardly think of a better way to inaugurate a blog about black metal than by discussing Norway’s Immortal. One of the few original Norwegian bands that has remained true to their sound and vision over the years, Immortal recently released their “comeback album” All Shall Fall, their first new music since 2002’s career-defining Sons of Northern Darkness.
While so many others have simply lost the plot or disbanded all together, Immortal have always kept their black metal hearts intact, with the only real changes in sound coming in the form of higher production values and an increased thrash influence. It is this undying purity that makes Immortal so appealing, the instantly recognizable icy guitar tone, the painstakingly applied corpsepaint, the dramatic band photos. Immortal characterize everything great about black metal as music for the true diehard who understands the genre as an ideology and a way of life. They remain true to their ideals in spite of increasing popularity and record sales, even though the snot-nosed twats out there who think black metal can only be true if it is recorded on a boombox in someone’s basement and only released in a limited edition of 66 hand-numbered cassettes probably consider them total sellouts.
But what all the “kvlt” folks out there fail to recognize is that black metal is not about who can collect the most shitty sounding rehearsal tapes. It’s about creating an atmosphere of total darkness and evil and spreading it like the black plague to infect the chosen few who are susceptible, while striking terror into the hearts of the masses that will never understand and were never meant to. It is about creating your own world where that aforementioned darkness reigns supreme, separate from the dreary day-to-day bullshit we’re all forced to suffer through. Immortal understands this inherently, immersing us in the grim and frostbitten realm of Blashyrkh, a kingdom cold where they rule over all with an icy iron fist.
Indeed, Immortal at their core are all about an intriguing mixture of might, empowerment, freedom and fantasy, and it is easy to get lost in the positively epic black metal blizzard they whip up on All Shall Fall. You can almost see yourself sitting in a castle high atop the mountains of madness, sharpening your battle-axe, applying war-paint and preparing to defend the the realm of Blashyrkh against all comers with Abbath, Horgh, Apollyon and Demonaz ready to fight to the death by your side.
Much like Bathory before them, Immortal are that rare band that can completely and utterly mesmerize with power and atmosphere, creating a total environment that reflects their unwavering dedication to the cause of black metal. While All Shall Fall is certainly one of 2009’s finest black metal albums, only time will tell where it sits amidst the ranks of Immortal’s discography. I personally consider Pure Holocaust and Sons of Northern Darkness to be the their penultimate works, but with the band seemingly rejuvenated and sounding as vital and dark as ever, there is a very good chance that Immortal’s best work is still ahead of them. All Shall Fall is a satisfying return in its own right, but it also serves as a harbinger of more great things still left to storm out of the frost-bitten gates of Blashyrkh.