Friday, October 23, 2009

Immortal - All Shall Fall (2009)

Sometime in 2003, it was announced that the mighty Immortal was no more. In the years that followed, Abbath, Demonaz and original drummer Armagedda collaborated on the Between Two Worlds album, from the side-project I. It wasn't too long after this, in 2006, that word got around that Immortal would be reuniting for some live shows. Still, it was unclear whether or not this was purely a nostalgia deal or if the band was truly back. In January 2008, Abbath, Horgh and Apollyon began rehearsing and writing material for their first album in several years. Of course, Demonaz was still there to provide lyrics, as always. After playing many gigs, the band finally began recording in April 2009. They recorded in both Abyss Studio and Grieghallen, for the first time since Battles in the North. Finally, in late September, All Shall Fall was released.

This album can be summed up with one word: forgettable. While it is a competent effort, it is ultimately unnecessary and feels overly safe and predictable. Musically, this record does well to pick up from where Sons of Northern Darkness left off. The passage of seven years, in between, is hardly noticeable. The guitar riffs are freezing cold, throughout the album, which is dominated by a good number or blackened thrash riffs, with a decent amount of inspiration from early Bathory. Quorthon's influence can be heard throughout the album, from time to time, such as the acoustic sections that come along to give you the feeling that you are sinking into frigid waters. The title track is one of the only memorable tunes here, even including a sombre and haunting tremolo melody. The songwriting isn't bad, with tracks like "The Rise of Darkness" and "Norden On Fire" easily capturing the same feeling that was present on the last few Immortal records. Several of the compositions are boring and lackluster, making it a tedious endeavour to sit through the album as a whole. It ends on a high note, thankfully, as "Unearthly Kingdom" returns to the traditional theme of Blashyrkh and is the most epic piece on All Shall Fall. From the eerie intro to the cold and desolate mid-paced riffs, as well as the sorrowful clean guitars and insanely grim vocals, this piece best captures the epic vibe that the band was going for. 

"Entering the sacred world of might
To where the stormy kingdoms home
Here naked winds blow cold and free
All black and dead on frozen ground"

Lyrically, it's very good to have more material from the mind of Demonaz, as it's gotten rather lame that most Black Metal bands are getting deeper and deeper into Judeo-Christian mythology for their lyrics, in recent years.

As for the production, it suffers from the same overly modern sound as on the previous records, but it could be worse. For what it is worth, the guitars possess a sharp edge that give the riffs a very frozen sound. The drums are thunderous, at times, but only when necessary. Otherwise, they sound quite similar to At the Heart of Winter. Of course, the vocals receive enough clarity to allow the utter grimness of Abbath's voice to be felt.

Several years ago, Immortal had gone out on a high note, so many were skeptical of whether or not they could live up the standards that they had set for themselves. While All Shall Fall exceeded the expectations of most, it occasionally drags and listeners may get the sense that they have heard this all before. Nevertheless, there are a few decent tracks here, and the album should please fans of the band's later efforts.