Immortal are one of black metal's most well-known bands, having formed way back in 1991 and having been one of the most prominent of the so-called 'second wave' of the Norwegian black metal acts. So, the chances are that if you're even remotely into black metal, you probably have at least two or three of their records sat on your shelf. If by some chance you're new to black metal or to Immortal, let me sum them up for you – they're all about the ice and snow, freezing winds, northern darkness and bitterly cold riffs that could take the skin off a frost troll at fifty paces.
'Northern Chaos Gods' is Immortal's ninth studio album, and second album to be released since their long hiatus (2002-2009). In twenty-seven years, Immortal have changed pace a few times, but never have they changed course from their relentless pursuit of all things grim and frostbitten, so I was not expecting any big surprises when hitting play on 'Northern Chaos Gods'.
The moment titular track 'Northern Chaos Gods' kicks in, we know we're back in Blashyrkh, freezing our extremities off as a ferocious battle rages somewhere on a nearby mountainside. This track charges on into the blizzard like Odin's own eight-legged horse.
'Into Battle Ride' continues in the same vein, but 'Gates to Blashyrkh' takes a moment to breathe, giving us more of mid-paced affair, letting us sit for a moment and feel the cooling icy winds on our face.
'Where Mountains Rise' conjures up Antarctic landscapes, giving a true sense of icy desolation and remoteness. Closing track 'Mighty Ravendark' is a nine minute epic which is pretty much the essence of Immortal boiled down into one track.
In summary, 'Northern Chaos Gods' is exactly what you'd expect from Immortal. Never really being one to 'experiment' with new approaches, Immortal are reliable and, some may say, predictable, but there's something to be said for continuity, and almost like the eternally cold depths of an arctic winter, Immortal don't really care for change or progress, preferring to be a constant in an ever-changing world of bands changing tack and 'selling out'. 'Northern Chaos Gods' is a fine offering from these ice-obsessed Norwegian stalwarts, and died-in-the-wool Immortal fans will find nothing to disagree with. As for finding new converts, if you didn't like Immortal before, you probably still won't be convinced by this record, but again, Immortal know what they do and do it well. Don't expect them to change any time soon. Immortal are the rulers of their own icy kingdom, and long may they reign.
Photo credit: Anne Swallow