Reviewed: November 2009
Released: 2009, Nuclear Blast
Reviewer: Kyle Moore, the Metal Magnus
When Norwegian black metal legends Immortal disbanded in 2003, I could almost hear the collective groan of countless metalheads around the globe as they lamented the loss of one of the most talented, enduring acts to ever don corpsepaint and inverted crosses. Immortal frontman Abbath soon founded a new sideproject called “I”, and thus it seemed that Immortal’s time had truly passed. But a couple years back, they reunited for a few one-off dates; suddenly there were rumors floating around the metal world that a new album was in the works. That album is ALL SHALL FALL, and it’s great to know that waiting seven years since previous effort SONS OF NORTHERN DARKNESS wasn’t for nothing.
From the get-go, it’s clear that Abbath and Co. haven’t returned from a six year break just to regurgitate the same old buzzsaw guitars and cranky blastbeats that trademarked most 90’s black metal. Immortal has evolved significantly from the olde tymes, starting with their epic masterpiece AT THE HEART OF WINTER in 1999. ATHOW showed me the upper limits of what two talented black metal musicians could do with a Peter Tagtgren production and the desire to transcend their peers; each song put me on the desolate battlefields of Blashyrkh, freezing my blood and inciting my spirit to experience the anguished deaths of countless frost-demons. After the disappointing follow-up entitled DAMNED IN BLACK, SONS OF NORTHERN DARKNESS showed the band could still kick ass with a polished sounding return-to-form reminiscent of earlier black metal works, but it took a muted step back from the astounding musical transformation that took place in ATHOW. New effort ALL SHALL FALL resides somewhere in-between Immortal’s previous efforts, showing increased interest in the epic 80’s vibe of ATHOW while pulling back from the raw, rabid blackness of SONS OF NORTHERN DARKNESS.
Opener “All Shall Fall” bursts through the gates with some of Abbath’s best riffing to date atop drummer Horgh’s thunderous percussion attack. The drums cut out briefly as Abbath lets a syncopated chord pattern build up a stormy mass of rage, which soon explodes into a neck-cracking blastbeat and Abbath’s inimitably guttural croak. A brief guitar solo leads a transition into a short clean guitar passage, which showcases Horgh tapping out a primal war-drum while Abbath does his best to combine his growl with something approximating a pitched note. It’s clear from this track that Immortal has again embraced the glorious epics of AT THE HEART OF WINTER without recycling their old sounds. Atypical song structures are back in style again.
“The Rise of Darkness” has Immortal settling into a midpaced, vaguely 80’s groove, unlike most of their previous works. The main riff has Abbath performing one of his signature articulated chord riffs while Horgh steadily thumps the double bass beneath. An atypically bluesy solo lick pops up halfway through, before morphing into a thrashy black metal cadence with Horgh laying out a zippy blast beat.
“Hordes of War” is one of the least characteristic Immortal songs I’ve heard them record, mostly because it sounds an awful lot like a BLOOD, FIRE, DEATH-era Bathory track. Not that that’s a bad thing – speedy, thrashed riffs relentlessly pummel away without stopping. “Norden on Fire” revisits the epic vibe of the title track, and is probably the strongest song on the album. The opening acoustic riffing is beautifully chilling.
Unfortunately, tracks 5 and 6 don’t live up to the high bar set by the remainder of this otherwise excellent album. They aren’t bad by any means, nor are they mediocre. But they hearken back to what I consider to be their least interesting album, DAMNED IN BLACK. Closer “Unearthly Kingdom” has the slightest Viking metal tinge to it, reminiscent of “Beyond the North Waves” from SONS, but the wide-open drum reverbs and bell-like guitars again gave me the super-epic vibe built from earlier tracks.
While this isn’t their best or most memorable work, ALL SHALL FALL is still a very solid effort by one of metal’s most respected and long-lasting groups. I can see this bringing some new fans into the fold, and only the most KVLT black metal purists will find this album unappealing due to the polished production.
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