When one of your all-time favourite bands releases an album you never thought would see the light of day (after facing such trials as Demonaz developing tendonitis, effectively ending his live guitar career, and Abbath eventually leaving the fold to start his own project) you leap at the chance to dig your teeth in. It also feels pertinent, however, to temper excitement with detachment just in case it isn’t quite as good an album as you hoped.
Thankfully, Northern Chaos Gods is exactly what we want it to be: a 100% proof Immortal album. The recipe calls for hard, heavy and grooving, often leaning more towards black ‘n roll than black metal, balanced out with soft, ringing melodies and offset with a rasping vocal performance chock full of glory and slaughter in the fantasy realm of Blashyrkh. On this last note, it’s impressive how Demonaz has altered his vocal performance to better match the signature bark that typified prior releases fronted by Abbath: even long-time fans should be satisfied.
As to the music: Horgh’s drumming remains some of the most underrated in metal: his style may not be exhibitionist, but his performance is equal parts clinical and sensitive – synthetic and metronomic in its barrage (“Blacker of Worlds”, for example), but gentle and organic where it’s needed to soften the blow.
This is how this album begins… with the title track “Northern Chaos Gods”.
Peter Tägtren’s presence on bass is a welcome addition; his experience and musical ability are widely considered second-to-none within metal, inferring that anything he gets involved in can only be of the highest quality – but he in no way steals the show. The low end of Northern Chaos Gods pulses and grooves – “Called to Ice” being particularly dynamic in this regard – but with restraint, as if he is letting Demonaz and Horgh hog the limelight as the last members of ‘classic’ Immortal.
The first single, the titular “Northern Chaos Gods”, is the heavy hitter – a return to the early days of second-wave Norwegian black metal and its ferocity, which isn’t quite matched anywhere else on the record. The remainder is exactly what you would expect from an Immortal disc, though. Any one of these tracks would have fit perfectly into Blizzard Beasts or Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticism without raising any eyebrows. So in this regard, Northern Chaos Gods may be a ‘safe’ album, playing purely to the strengths of the Immortal legacy, but don’t take it as a negative criticism: this is still a monster of a record.
Honestly, once Abbath parted ways with Immortal, I expected the new album to be another Demonaz solo release, resulting in a sound more suited to gothic rock than black metal – which wouldn’t have bothered me in the slightest, as March of the Norse remains one of my favourite albums. However, the fact that this trio have successfully resurrected the late ‘90s Immortal sound is even more pleasing. This band deserves their name based on the longevity of their music; and even if they are not breaking new ground musically speaking, as long as they keep making new black metal battle hymns, they are still doing exactly what their fans desire – formulaic or not. Welcome back, you Sons of Northern Darkness!
We pray to “Mighty Ravendark” that you check out this song.
Northern Chaos Gods Track Listing:
01. Northern Chaos Gods
02. Into Battle Ride
03. Gates to Blashyrkh
04. Grim and Dark
05. Called to Ice
06. Where Mountains Rise
07. Blacker of Worlds
08. Mighty Ravendark
Run Time: 42:16
Release Date: July 6, 2018
Record Label: Nuclear Blast