IMMORTAL - Sons of Northern Darkness

By Alex Robot - No Sleep Til Bedtime

For the record, CJLO’s Korgull the Destroyer (from Metal for Supper, Thursdays 2-4pm) bought this album when it first came out. I mercilessly made fun of both him AND the three corpse-painted clowns on the cover, brandishing medieval weapons and spiky armor. I knew these guys had a killer rep, but I assumed it was similar to the praise lavished on the over-rated Burzums of the Black Metal world, guys who are more renowned for their gimmicks and criminal records than their music.

But damn, I gotta eat my words. After being blown away by the Grimfist album last year, I finally caved to Korgull and checked this album out. And now I’m ready for my membership in the ‘Bring Back Immortal’ fan club. Sons of Northern Darkness manages to put a somber Black Metal spin on the polyrhythmic crunchiness of Morbid Angel, and build songs that are both epic AND furious. The guitar playing is technical, but there are tons of breaks where you’d expect an over-the-top solo and instead get a battering nod to the simpler days of Thrash… which perhaps is what lures me in as a Grimfist fan.

But the real brilliance of the whole thing is that despite the straight-ahead old-school parts and the technical edge of both the guitar and the drums, there is an all-pervading atmosphere of DESPAIR in the riffs, even in the most brutal moments. On ‘In My Kingdom Cold’, Abbath (guitar and axe wielder… how non-ironically fitting) weaves a brilliant melancholy guitar line amidst all the smashy-smashy blasting of the drums and the thankfully NOT “true black metal” bass presence. The production on the album only adds to this, as the punchy sound on the bass lets the rhythms really duke it out with the leads, delivering some really hair-raising and unforgettable grooves. On ‘Tyrants’ and the short ambient intro to ‘Antarctica’, Immortal really goes all out into the territory of truly desolate riffs, crafting an atmosphere that is both soaring AND depressive with just a handful of trebly chords and some mid-paced crunch.

I could probably go on and on, but I guess I’ll get to the point: If you can ignore the gimmicks and the clunky Scand-glish (I hereby claim that term as being coined by me, and I defy you to do anything about it!) of the lyrics, you’re not going to find much flaw with Sons of Northern Darkness. Of all the bands I’ve heard from the “glorious” (and oh-so bloody) olden days of Norwegian Black Metal, this band and Enslaved are the only ones to live up to the hype. Emperor did its best, and Gorgoroth is pretty ferocious, but Immortal are the real deal when it comes to snowy wastelands and powerhouse metal.