Sunday, October 18, 2009

Album Review: All Shall Fall - Immortal (2009)

Having anticipated Immortal’s first album in seven years for almost 12 months, I finally got my hands on it and after about three full listens, first impressions are simple: it is a punishing collection of songs. In fact, the onslaught is so much on first playing, I couldn’t even tell if it was any good. With an almost flawless production behind it, moments of brilliance do shine through without doubt and as expected, the atmosphere does reign supreme. It can’t be denied All Shall Fall is another grim, worthy frost bitten entry into the band’s legacy, but after seven years is it that much different, new or exciting? Not overly, but if you are a fan, almost any new Immortal material is an essential purchase.

Buoyed by Demonaz’s grandiose lyrics, Abbath’s cave troll vocals splice the guitar wall and pummelling drums with relief filled confidence. Perhaps surprisingly though, Fall incorporates elements from many of the band’s previous work as opposed to moving forward drastically like they did with 1999’s At the Heart of Winter. Overall, the album is short (clocking in at just over 40 minutes), but slower in tempo. Ferocious moments reminiscent of 1997’s Blizzard Beasts (‘Hordes to War’) are there, along with the epic notions of their last album, Sons of Northern Darkness (‘Unearthly Kingdom’, ‘Norden on Fire‘) and even a riff or two that sounds like it could fit into Abbath’s heavy metal-esq side project, ’I’ (’The Rise of Darkness’).

Is it all a step backwards then perhaps? I don’t think that would be fair to say as it is hardly dull. At the same time, it is definitely the sound of a band more re-finding their feet back into that wholly mythic universe of theirs. It is not a domination of it. I personally find it to be a testament to the notion that Immortal have always helmed grand plans with their art, believing in what they do almost frighteningly. If you don’t like it; it‘s of no real consequence to them. Their epic and constantly praised live shows are reminders that if you do have faith, you will be rewarded however.

Only time will tell if All Shall Fall will be end up being regarded amongst their best work, but when the disc finally spins to a stop, it and the band demand your respect. And if you call yourself a fan of extreme metal, it is hard not to look up and take notice. Despite it being a difficult album to devour, fans should rejoice while newcomers or sceptics will probably struggle to find anything new to grab them. Creating interesting Black metal in 2009 is a challenge in itself, and I think Immortal have at least proved with this "comeback", that they're still relevant.

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