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At the Heart of Winter
August 2002
Released: 1999, Osmose
Rating: 4.7/5
Reviewer: Cid

When Immortal comes up in a metal discussion, it is very often that the issue drifts to whether or not they are black metal rather than anything else. Marked by a somewhat shocking change of style from pure black metal to a more melodic and catchy approach, Immortal’s career has been notorious to say the least.

Being one of the founders of the inner black circle, Immortal has always surprised many people through their almost total lack of Satanic references in their music. Choosing to forsake the now worn out devil worshipping outfit, Abbath and Demonaz opted to create a far more original concept to go behind their music. Inspired by the forest of Os (some 30 miles away from their hometown of Bergen, Norway) they gave birth to Blashyrkh, a world filled with intense imagery that vividly mirrored their homeland. The frostbitten kingdom was marked by blizzards and demons running amok in an eternally frozen realm of fantasy.

Immortal’s first releases delved deeply in the more ambient prone territory. Featuring super fast music and very raw production, PURE HOLOCAUST and BATTLES IN THE NORTH served to consolidate Immortal’s place among the elite of black metal. But those times are gone. Immortal’s new approach is a somewhat slower version of their former ways. Featuring intense melodic passages and a very much improved production (courtesy of Peter Tagtgren at Abyss Studios) this Norwegian outfit brought us one of the best releases of 1999. Many say the reason for Immortal’s change of pace is directly linked to founding member Demonaz Doom Occulta’s unfortunate case of acute tendonitis in his picking wrist, this meaning that to the date, he remains unable to play at all.

From the first moments on the intense album opener “Withstand the fall of time” takes you to Blashyrkh to ride along the Norse hordes in the midst of the nebular winter. A perfect example of Immortal’s new musical style is the 2nd track ”Solarfall”. The superb drumming and riffing intro to this song makes it clear that in no way the band has slowed down. The superb harmonies and vocal performance that constitute this album are proof enough that Immortal is headed in the right direction to improve their sound and continue developing as a band regardless of trends. It is always great to find a band that is not afraid to reinvent themselves without compromising the artistic integrity and maintaining an inventive and top-notch song writing style!

Choice Cuts: “Withstand the fall of time” (*****), “Tragedy Blows at Horizon” (****1/2)

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