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Immortal - Battles in the North
Review: As the initial conquests of black metal faded into a search for roots, Immortal caught on early and created a masterwork of the spirited discharge of subconscious energy that is characteristic of the genre, accelerated by its presence in this inventive and eruptive form of battering music. Seething distortion and rolling battledrums obscure all but the harsh voice of winter when sound drops to the relatively soft for building of conclusive melody, allowing transfer of theme for sequencing its multitude of sensations that are like perception of a place as a whole in memory: dreamlike, idealized, and detailed across many incidents.
In pure form such as that, black metal becomes a gesture of the parts of the mind most reputable psychologists refuse to study. Its gesture of primal change through destruction and the spirit of dissatisfaction conquers all objections toward the moral as majestic melodies rise from detonating chaos. Lyrics as a component of the music are pure metaphor, spelling the triumph of will through awareness and action despite a stagnant yet unexploited external reality. Violent disruptive phrasing and "bombastic" use of rhythmic dynamics as compositional structure aid the descent into the unreal.
Musicianship centers on guitar, as bass and drums administrate under the arch theatric vocals in which Immortal expand texture and theme. The former, as the simpler of the two, is the broadest implementation with the difference between all guns blazing and the open mid-paced phrases familiar from their first album, as a basic range, covered in several layers. Varied strumming speed and ability to blur rhythm and tone in a furious precipitation of melody exposes internal harmonization as phenomena build for an epiphany of modal resolution. Gentle in some moods, and savage in most, instrumentation requisitions attention through its infective memes of theme expanding from the simplest to the grandest, with aspiration unmatched by any "popular" music in the age of self-absorbed nullity.
Triumphantly presented as unity in concept and vision, the elitist black metal of Immortal fuses the eloquence of Bathory in Blood, Fire, Death era with Celtic Frost in the days of To Mega Therion, and in doing so escapes most of the self-indulgence and gothicism without losing its sense of humor and of basic, pulsing, regenerating life in the will to survive and create. Often sonorous, sometimes transcendently crafted for resonant thematic emphasis, the wild textural feast of bombardment presented by these frozen Norsemen inspired many to grit their teeth and endure the frigidity of the degeneration of black metal.