Is it disappointment if the result is expected? I knew this album was going to be mediocre. Anyone who was a realistic fan of Immortal knew this album was going to be mediocre. Since Immortal’s final album, Abbath has been trying to create a more mature sounded black metal record, one that has a higher production value, and overall grander scheme. All Shall Fall was the ultimate sellout record for a black metal band that still tried to pass it off as not such a thing. So after 6 years and a disbanded band later, Abbath himself tries to cure what ails this band by himself, only to find that he still doesn’t get what made Immortal one of my favorite bands in the first place.
I recently got an Immortal shirt, a grey Battles in the North t-shirt that I picked for a very specific reason. Beyond the fact that it’s my favorite of their albums, and beyond the fact that all the other shirts were All Shall Fall shirts, of which no Immortal fan who is honest with himself wants to be associated with, Battles in the North epitomized what I loved about the band. Namely, that for their time, and even today, they were one of the most brutal and evil sounding black metal bands ever. Battles in the North is so fucking raw that some of the tracks just cut off before they’re done. Oh I’m sorry, you wanted an ending? No, fuck you, endings are for pussies, next track now. The production was awful but that’s what gave it charm, which is why I loved Immortal so much. There was something “charming” (though they would hate me using that word) about a band that rejected the black metal tag, calling themselves “holocaust metal”. There’s something special about a band that actually produced a music video like this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-VBdAY8eA9w . In short, the band was great because it was music for people who are admittedly not mature and wanted just pure, raw, evil sound as music.
So trying to make Immortal sound mature is the exact antithesis of what made them so well liked in the first place. It’s counterproductive, and yet it’s seemingly Abbath’s end goal. I mean just look at that cover. Do you see how well produced that is? Yeah he’s wearing corsepaint, but does it seem sincere anymore? Do I believe this is the same guy who named one of their albums Pure Holocaust? Fuck no. This seems like some poser dude who wants to be with the in-crowd but fails miserably. I mean just look at those eyes. Who the fuck adds that kind of effect? You’re not a demon, you’re a middle aged man with an identity crisis straining for relevance.
You might have noticed I actually haven’t talked much about the musical content so far. Well there’s a reason for that: there’s not much to talk about. The album is extremely empty, like Abbath tried to counteract the fact that All Shall Fall was too bombastic with just stripping the music of well, uh, anything really. It’s just extremely generic black metal. But beyond that, the production job is fucking awful. Black metal thrives on a sharp sounding production. Note that that doesn’t mean clear and well produced, but the guitars sound like knives cutting through your skin. This sounds so fucking murky and muddy that it feels more like death metal than black metal. Not that Immortal never ventured into that territory, but that’s certainly not what you want to get back to from a comeback album, even if it’s technically not the same band anymore. And the production is really what ruins this whole mess. Abbath just feels so damn soft that about 1/3rd of the way through I just stopped giving a fuck about what I was listening to. It felt more like background music than anything else, rather than the in your face fuckery that old Immortal brought in their prime.
It’s not that I think Abbath doesn’t care. He clearly cares enough to try to revive his brand with a solo project. I just don’t think he gets it. I don’t think he gets WHY his band became famous. WHY people loved his music. WHY Immortal was the ultimate non poser band, despite their name sounding like it came from a teen heartthrob pop group. It’s because Immortal was the least mature awesome thing in existence. Nullify that, and you get an empty barren wasteland of an album that further proves that even going solo won’t help Abbath ever get his magic back again.