All Shall Fall
posted on 10/2009 By:
Arguably one of the more anticipated reunions of the last few years, Immortal went out on a polarizing high note with 2002's Sons Of Northern Darkness. And while the core of Abbath and Horgh kept things with I and Hypocrisy respectively, fans clamored for a full on Immortal comeback, and the duo heard the call. The thing is, I'm not sure if it was really worth the wait.
I’ll be honest, initially I was going to be all snarky with this review after the first couple of listens; after the dust settled of the excitement of a new Immortal album I was ready to use terms like All Shall Fail, All Shall Snooze and All Shall zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Any witty option that showed All Shall Fall as a disappointing reunion as there has ever been. However, over time All Shall Fall did grow on me somewhat. Well, at least the first half did.
The strong first half of the album up to “Norden on Fire” delivers a steady, polished latter era Immortal, so fans of At The Heart of Winter, Damned in Black and Sons Of Northern Darkness will be appeased. Those wishing for a Blizzard Beasts/Pure Holocaust return to form will be sorely disappointed. Still, even fans of Sons of Northern Darkness will be A) rather bored after 4 tracks and B) miss the bottom end and heft that latter Immortal possessed as producer Peter Tagtgren seems to have forgotten Apollyon’s (Gorgoroth, Cadaver, Dødheimsgard) bass guitar and drained the heft from Horgh’s drums. I know this is frosty black metal, but Immortal’s last three albums managed to make the grim tones resonate with power. Here, despite some strong riffs early on, the album sounds relatively flat and timid.
Luckily, at least for the first four songs, some solid songwriting keeps the album interesting and nostalgic. The opening title track is an impressive of a return as you’d expect from such an act; grandiose yet grim and distinctly Immortal with some deft melody interwoven with the tremolo blasting and a stern pulsing chorus with Abbath’s unique croak. Second track “The Rise of Darkness” slows down to a rhythmic march and a section at 2:30 that’s simply awesome. “Hordes to War” ramps up the thrashy intensity while arguable standout “Norden on Fire” has an epic Viking-y/Bathory (Hammerheart/ Twilight of the Gods era) pace and feel.
So far, as a relatively casual fan of Immortal things are looking good but the four minute “Arctic Swarm” is where things start to drift from great into mediocre and tired. Its short, direct thrash pace doesn’t sound like Immortal at all and the scrawling last couple of minutes are downright grating. Then “Mount North” and eight snoozefest closer “Unearthly Kingdom” seem to just drag on with rehashed riffs and a distinct lack of fire.
Rather than end the album of a breath expelling a “We are Fucking back to claim the Throne!!!” exaltation, the album goes out with a wheeze and whimper like Abbath and Horgh literally ran out of steam and that’s a bit of a shame. All Shall Fall certainly won’t ruin Immortal’s legacy as there are some excellent moments on All Shall Fall, but considering the wait and hype, it isn’t quite the full legendary reunion some had expected.
All Shall Slightly Undewhelm?
posted on 10/2009 By:
"I don't know if we'll see the end of the world, but it's definitely the end of what used to be. Prepare for chaos with a grin on your face! And don't be afraid, just listen to Immortal." ~ Abbath
That little quote sums up my love for this band quite succinctly: life is an exercise in absurdity that requires a grin be firmly set in place. There's enough bad shit that'll track each and every one of us down in our lifetime's, and all the hard work we put into our personal pursuits of wealth and prosperity could be wooshed out in a flash: careening buses, bad salmon, hurtling meteorites, Mesoamerican omens, hunting accidents, falling piano's, toasters in tubs, exploding buildings, unglued psychopaths, when animals attack, the fucking APOCALYPSE! -- it's enough to send even the strongest of souls cowering into a dark corner at times. The solution? Flamboyant middle fingers to the cosmos! I, for one, embrace a world where grown men can slap on some boiled leather pants, spiked gauntlets and panda paint to run about the woods howling about frost with halberds in tow. Embrace the absurd and laugh in the face of Armageddon! THAT is Immortal to me in a nutshell...with razor-sharp riffs.
Friends, black metal's most iconographic battle-wizards-of-the-woods have finally returned after six loooong years of silence. The hype has been massive, and based on Abbath's relatively recent output through his kickass "I" project, my excitement level essentially launched through the roof. The 10-cent question: does All Shall Fall deliver? Well, I guess that depends on which side of the snow-fence you happen to stand. Those who've spent the better part of the last two decades mocking these defenders of Frost & Forest will likely still mock them; this record sounds like a very logical addition to the At the Heart of Winter brand of Immortal, and there are no new tricks up the band's sleeve. Co-founding member and now (relatively) silent partner, Demonaz, clearly stated the biggest surprise for fans will be the fact that "we kept our sound," and although that may seem remarkably unadventurous to some of you, I find comfort in the idea that some metal bands remain frozen in time. Immortal have a very well-established fan base, and they understand their primary duty is to keep those rabid fans rabid. In that regard, this record is yet another notch in the win column in their slowly expanding discography. But this isn't a case of a band simply releasing a carbon copy either. Much like many of the "metal band reunited" albums of late, All Shall Fall does a nice job of mixing in pinches of sounds found throughout the band's career, but with a bold emphasis on the more epic, melodic sound established on At the Heart of Winter, delivered with a crystal clear production.
The first three tunes stand as personal favorites, with the opening title track hitting the target particularly hard. Within the first 50-seconds we're treated to a warm, familiar "ECH!" belched from Abbath's gravel-scraped throat, and things pretty much flail rippingly from that moment until a sudden slow-down ushers in the song's rumbling, slow-paced end. "The Rise of Darkness" follows with a crisp, galloping start and eventually settles into near Between Two Worlds territory because of the tune's emphasis on Abbath's gingerly strummed guitar. But it's the face-peeling attack of "Hordes To War" that'll really bring the oldsters poking around the campsite again. There's a significant nod to elder Bathory in this cut's speedy blitz and vocal delivery, and one can almost feel the horses breath as they gallop and whinny at the 3:20 mark. The rest of the album still lets the grimacing Horgh kick up dust behind the kit, but the pace is generally slower and more focused on atmosphere. Mellow moments and pleasant melodic leads (not quite as brazen as what was found on AtHoW) flourish in and out of "Norden On Fire", "Mount North" and closer "Unearthly Kingdom", while "Arctic Storm" turns up the savagery once again, but with a more "hammering" approach.
Lyrically and vocally we get what we've come to expect from our well-armed friends: joyous preparation for a frosty End of Days croaked through the well-worn chords of one of black metal's most recognizable reptilians. I can't emphasize enough how nice it is to hear all these "Immortally" elements again through a batch of new tunes. And honestly, I think it would be damn-near impossible for a band to live up to the hype whipped up behind a release such as this. In the end, I very simply hoped I'd hear Immortal -- the band I've grown to love over the course of the last two decades -- and that's exactly what I got...in all their bombastic, highfalutin' glory. Now I find myself excited about a future tour, because as Abbath so eloquently stated, "conqueror's don't stay home."
Hail the return of the mighty Immortal!
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