PICK OF THE WEEK: Immortal rise from ice of Blashyrkh on killer new opus ‘Northern Chaos Gods’

You can’t destroy the ice and snow. You can’t destroy Blashyrkh. Over decades together, Nordic black metal legends Immortal have faced their share of trials and tribulations that would decimate most bands, but this banner remains alive and well, with their flags deeply ensconced in the fantasy ice world that inspires their music.

Immortal’s very existence came into question three years ago when the band members were at odds over who owned the name and who controlled its existence. That led to longtime vocalist/bassist Abbath Doom Occulta, one of the most recognizable figures in black metal history, to split with his mates Demonaz Doom Occulta and drummer Horgh over ownership of the name, leading him to start his own project under the name Abbath. Not to be deterred and refusing to give up the struggles and travails of Blashyrkh, Demonaz and Horgh (along with Peter Tägtgren on bass) carried on and promised a new Immortal album, which we now have in the form of their ninth record “Northern Chaos Gods,” their first album in eight years. While Demonaz long was the creative force behind the band, despite his having to step away in 1997 because of tendonitis in his arm, Abbath’s buzzing voice always was the one that would signal you to battle alongside the group’s mammoth riffs. How would they fare without him and push this new vision into the future? It doesn’t take long on this savage, melodic, glorious, and somewhat basic record to let you know they’re alive, well, and ready to ride off into battle until the last limb has been severed.

The title track kicks off the record, and it’s a fire-breather right away, with heavy riffs, crushing blasts, and Demonaz’s razor-sharp growl hailing, “Now the time has come!” The song is packed with speed and chaos, and it’s the ideal opening salvo to signal Immortal are back. “Into Battle Ride” has guitars killing, gruff growls, and a majestic chorus that’s impactful but also fairly simple. That’s a theme on many of the songs here, and while that might be tiring for some, it’s actually a strong way to keep the listener involved and aware of when the high points are coming. “Gates to Blashyrkh” brings us back to the band’s primary inspiration, as clean guitars snake through the madness like an icy stream, and Demonaz paints pictures of ravens circling and fire consuming the sky. The track is heavy, fun, and a full dose of Immortal lore. “Grim and Dark” has riffs boiling, howls soaring, and a grisly pace that eventually becomes even tempered. The vocals scrape while the guitars drive the pace, and another strong chorus gives you something to shout back at them live.

“Called to Ice” is fast and punchy, with the tempo going for broke and the growls splattering the colors of battle. The pace stomps, never relenting, while melodic ferocity tears into you like an ice beast. “Where Mountains Rise” is as gem situated later in the record that’s the adrenaline rush of the second half. After a chilly open, we get a powerful burst, muscular riffs, and a memorable chorus that, as basic as it is on the surface, delivers in spades. Try to get it out of your head. You’ll fail every time. “Blacker of Worlds” has more chest-bruising riffs, yet another chorus that sticks to your ribs, and a blast of chilled air you can feel through your mouth, burning your lungs. Closer “Mighty Ravendark” ends the record on an epic note, as it runs 9:14 and makes the most of that time. After a cold, trickling start, we head into the mouth of the storm, as gigantic riffs blast through frozen rock, and the easy-to-recite chorus keeps your blood just surging enough for you to remain alive. The track has a true fantasy battle feel, as wars are waged in the dark, Demonaz unleashes the harsh cries of combat, and the track trickles off into the pages of Blashyrkh, etched forever for generations to come visit all over again.

After eight years away, the very existence of Immortal was a stake, but Demonaz and Horgh have done a devastating job reinvigorating the beast on “Northern Chaos Gods.” It’s a blistering, catchy record that delivers on what Immortal do so well, and acts as comfort food for all of those who hold this group close to their icy hearts. This band rides again, and with this new lease on life, hopefully it won’t be quite as long until we get even more frosty, bloody tales from Blashyrkh.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/immortalofficial/

To buy the album, go here: http://shop.nuclearblast.com/en/shop/index.html

For more on the label, go here: http://www.nuclearblast.com/en/label/