Album Review: Immortal - War Against All
Reviewed by Dan Barnes
One of the original Black Metal bands out of Norway, Immortal’s recent history seems mired by bad blood and legal action. Yet that shouldn’t distract from the band’s history and the release of classic second wave records like Battles in the North, At the Heart of Winter and the imperious Sons of Northern Darkness as three of the seven albums released in the first decade of their existence.
After a run of European festival shows – including the filmed 2007 Wacken show, released as The Seventh Date of Blashyrkh – Abbath, Apolloyon and Horgh decided to reunite on a permanent basis, which eventually led to the release of the hotly anticipated All Shall Fall album.
Disagreements over the name led to Abbath exiting and forming his self-titled project, leaving just original guitarist, occasional member and constant lyricist, Demonaz to return to a musical and vocal role for 2018’s surprisingly good Northern Chaos Gods. Horgh remained on the drum stool for that release but would go on to pursue his own legal claim to the Immortal name in 2020.
So, there you have a (very) potted history of the turbulent story that is Immortal. With Demonaz the only remaining member, Immortal is ready to issue album number ten in the guise of War Against All – a surprisingly apt title, considering the recent animosity surrounding the band.
As per the last couple of Immortal albums everything kicks off with the title track and it’s quite clear War Against All is a continuation of the frenzied gallop of Northern Chaos Gods. Big and brazen from the outset the less-polished sound of its predecessor is unmistakably Immortal as icy riffs are blended with traditional Heavy Metal and elements of Speed Metal. If you haven’t developed a Nordic Claw by the end of the first song, you’ll need to search your black heart.
Thunder of Darkness expands on this formula by thrashing it up, sounding even more furious as Demonaz launches runs up the fretboard. Return to Cold’s driving rhythms are punctuated by some atmospheric moments and the occasional playful touch.
Immortal’s dalliance with the Satanic are few and far between, opting instead to create a mythology around the concept of Blashyrkh – a demon-filled winter landscape, not unlike the land beyond the Great Wall of the Kingdom of the North – to which the band have regularly returned. Blashyrkh My Throne and the epic, instrumental, Nordlandhir are both build around towering riffs and cold acoustics. There’s something of the Hammerheart or Blood, Fire, Death-era Bathory about the latter while the former is a spiritual successor to the earlier Wargod. A slower and more stomping composition that evokes the feeling of a vast army marching to battle and, once there, chaos rages, underpinning the song with an unmistakably Power Metal essence.
To their credit, Immortal have never been purveyors of Scandinavia’s filthiest riffs, but that doesn’t stop them having a crack at it and on the intro and outro to No Sun, where Demonaz channels his inner Infernus to give the track a distinctly Gorgoroth blackness. Whereas the track, Immortal, is a full-on blistering black metal charge, harkening back to the At the Heart of Winter and Damned In Black-era as wave after icy wave shows Demonaz’ true heart of darkness.
If you can ignore all the surrounding politics and near-constant litigation, then War Against All is a fine addition to an already impressive back catalogue and, although Immortal have long been imitated, this album sounds of them rather than like them. I imagine this will be on heavy rotation with the lads of the Night Watch as they scan the far horizon looking for White Walkers.