March Of The Norse
posted on 5/2011 By:
While Abbath is undoubtedly the member that immediately comes to mind when the subject of Immortal arises, longtime fans are fully aware that every facet of that band's operation has had a second set of eyes helping to fine-tune their product since day one. Having had the unfortunate circumstance of having to give up playing guitar live with Immortal in ’97 due to tendonitis issues, a development that ultimately relegated him to "silent member," Demonaz’s written words and heavy metal wisdom have still meant just as much to the band as Abbath’s neck-breaking riffery and trademark croak. March Of The Norse marks the first solo album by the man who quietly lurks amongst the shadows, and I’m extremely pleased to report that his debut effort absolutely smokes.
Much like the camp’s Between Two Worlds album from ’06, March Of The Norse is cut from the same cloth, and the intense viking-era Bathory-meets-Motörhead-meets-Venom influence is evident right from acoustic intro “Northern Hymn” to the slow fade of the album’s final track. With Abbath bowing out completely – likely out of respect to his friend, hoping to avoid stealing any potential thunder – Enslaved guitarist Ice Dale once again lends his talents providing all guitars and bass, with original Immortal basher Armagedda again pounding the cans as he did on Between Two Worlds. While the two do a tremendous job of providing a canvas of addictive metallic goodness upon which Demonaz paints his tales, Ice Dale's fantastic ear for sweeping melodic licks and simple yet effective guitar soloing elevates this album to the next level. As with Between Two Worlds, if you were to strip those flourishing moments of epic melodic beauty from both albums, each of them could have just as easily been hackneyed flops.
Comprised of nine total songs and clocking in at a swift 39 minutes, the ride is quick, yet not a moment seems lost on the listener. From the rollicking banger of a riff during the chorus of “All Blackened Sky” to the catchy vocal lines during the chorus of “A Son of the Sword”, every track has a shining moment to offer. The latter contains a wonderful guitar solo during the middle, and at track number four, it’s where the album will really start to dig its claws into you. “Where Gods Once Rode” has a beautifully placed acoustic section before Ice Dale lays down yet another superb lead, and I just can’t say enough about his contribution here. While a little generic in the riff department, “Over the Mountains” is just a rocker of a tune that’ll easily get the noggin moving up and down, and the fully acoustic “Ode to Battle” perfectly sets up the album closer “Legends of Fire and Ice”, which has a well-placed harmony lead that might even bring a band like Thin Lizzy to mind.
And what of the man leading the charge into battle? Anyone who’s familiar with his lyrical concepts knows what to expect: fire, ice, mountains, forests, blackened skies and, of course, warriors preparing for combat. His vocal approach is a combination of raspy growls mixed with some surprisingly solid cleanish croons, and during the quieter acoustic moments, there are some subtle chants that will surely bring an image of Quorthon to mind. All in all, it’s a solid mixture of Lemmy, Quorthon and Cronos with a little bit of Abbath sprinkled on top for good measure.
The only true complaint that I can point out is that some of the tracks sound a bit similar to one another, but even then, there are still stand-out qualities to each that give them their own identity. Another minor complaint -- and it’s a selfish one -- is that the ride is too damn short. But even with that said, the flow of the album is darn near perfect, and it’s just a damn fun listen that demands repeated spins.
At the end of the day, there will be folks who wanted another I and/or Immortal album more than this, and there will be others who will dismiss it as nothing more than thievery from the bands mentioned in the second paragraph. I think it’s safe to say that Demonaz would thank you gracefully and humbly suggest to you that there’s a difference between theft and homage. The latter is what this album is all about, and Demonaz gets it right. It’s a tribute to the old-school and the more rock n’ roll tinged metal days, and of course, it’s topped off with a pinch of Nordic blackness making it his. While Between Two Worlds is still the better album, March of the Norse ain’t too damn far behind it as far as quality is concerned, and I can’t help but urge you to go out and buy this album. Highly recommended.
Note: The special digi-pak version of March Of The Norse will have different artwork and include the extra track “Dying Sun.”
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