Monday, February 9, 2009

Immortal - Blizzard Beasts (1997)

My introduction to Immortal came with hearing the song "The Sun No Longer Rises" on a college radio show, many years ago. This cold and grim atmosphere was enough to draw me in. As a result, I quickly sought and acquired Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticism and Pure Holocaust. A short time later, I got my hands on Battles in the North. Though each of these albums had their own sound, they were all similar in spirit and they constitute the classic era of Immortal. Blizzard Beasts, however, represents something far different.

This album was recorded in the autumn months of 1996, in Sigma Recording Studios. This is their first effort to be recorded outside of Grieghallen. Certainly, that may play a small part in the change in sound. Blizzard Beasts also saw the recruitment of new drummer, Horgh, though he did not reall contribute to the songwriting.

The album starts with a brief intro that seeks to create a nightmarish feeling through the horrific sounds. It does not serve much of a purpose, really. The album truly begins with the song "Blizzard Beasts". This sounds pretty similar to the songwriting from Battles in the North. The major difference here is the atrocious sound. Again, the guitars are buried underneath the drums and that is especially terrible here, as the drum sound is awful. The song ends with some random thrash riff and fades back into the shadows.

"Nebular Ravens Winter" begins with an interesting solo and the typical Immortal sound. The songwriting seems far less inspired here than on previous albums. There are more thrash riffs that might have been more appropriate with more of an old school production job. The chorus features some effect on Abbath's vocals. At this point, the listener may wonder where this is all going. There are a couple of decent riffs, but that is all that can be said for the song. The production really kills any chance that this has to be decent.

"Suns That Sank Below" really carries more of a Death Metal feeling. It is pretty awful. "Battlefields" isn't much better, though it does foreshadow the style that the band would employ on later albums, such as Sons of Northern Darkness. There are some okay tremolo melodies that are quickly displaced by mediocre thrash riffs. Again, there are more effects being used, this time on the riffs instead of the vocals. At some points, this album sounds like it was recorded under water.

The next song is "Mountains of Might" and this seems like one of the few worthwhile songs on here. It begins with a synth intro, creating a melancholy atmosphere as the sorrowful tremolo melodies come in, mixed with thrashier riffs. This song actually possesses an epic feeling and is comparable to "Blashyrkh (Mighty Ravendark)". This song is probably the only redeeming quality to this abomination. It's still mediocre when compared to the earlier material, but it definitely stands out on this album filled with atrocities.

"Noctambulant" begins with more useless riffs that hint at the band's later style. This couldn't be farther from Black Metal, though the argument could be made that Immortal was never actually a Black Metal band. Either way, this is pointless. "Winter of the Ages" continues this terrible sound. The shift in style might have been easier to digest if they hadn't gotten such a wretched production job. I'm not typically a fan of the Abyss Studio sound, but they might have benefitted from going there a little sooner than they did. "Frostdemonstorm" doesn't even sound like it was recorded during the same session, as the guitars and vocals are vastly different than the rest of the album. This is more of the same trash that can be found on the rest of the album, as Immortal doesn't know if they want to play Black, Death or Thrash Metal.

Blizzard Beasts is entirely worthless and Immortal fans are encouraged to avoid this piece of shit by any means necessary. Don't even allow yourself to be in the same room with a copy of this travesty. If you see if on a store shelf, smash it with a hammer. All copies of this should be gathered and destroyed, utterly. At the Heart of Winter and Sons of Northern Darkness were not in the same vein as the early albums, either, but they were executed far more successfully. Blizzard Beasts and its companion, Damned In Black, are truly blemishes on the legacy of Immortal. Even the few decent riffs that exist on this album are, ultimately, pointless as you can hear the same concept done much better on the albums that came before and after this one.