Us reviewers keep talking about atmosphere and the right mood when writing about albums and important it sometimes can be. Reunited Norwegian veterans IMMORTAL have this down pat, because I’m sitting in my van during morning commute, it is cold, it is humid, it is snowing, dawn is trying to claw its way through the thick cloud cover and Abbath rasps about the Arctic, the North, cold winds, thundersnow (sic!) and all, making it seem like a Black Metal weather forecast fitting my attempts to get to work and seemingly 2000 other people trying to get to the same spot at the same time, so talk about the right mood, eh?
“All Shall Fall” definitely has been one of the most hyped albums of the year, marking the first album of the Norwegians in seven years and the expectations were very high, not least due to the fact that no promos were sent out to magazines prior to release date (talk about paranoia) and the clever marketing of Nuclear Blast that culminated in tons of different editions, which in turn raise the questions, where the line between “giving the fans something special” and money-grabbing should be drawn, but that’s not the point here and completely up to you.
Musically, well, who seriously expected the band to go back to their “Pure Holocaust” days, dream on, these times are done and over with and “All Shall Fall” follows in the footsteps of the previous three albums, meaning often slow- to mid-paced tempos, more emphasis on melodies and atmosphere and a generally more epic feel. And as someone, who only managed to find my way into their sound with “At The Heart Of Winter”, that is not a bad thing and it is the maybe overall most epic album of them all, which I can see some people complain about, but that’s IMMORTAL these days.
The title track sets out with some of the fastest passages of the whole album (harkening back to older days) and contains all the trademarks, from the characteristic riffing over Abbath’s trademark snarl and the melodies that had been established all those years back, loosened up by enough rhythmic changes to keep the attention high. Then we see the influence that BATHORY have had on the band, twice actually, but in very different ways. While “Hordes To War” remind of the old, dirty BATHORY with a strong Thrash influence, “Norden On Fire” bears several trademarks of Quorthon’s Viking Metal phase, be it the rhythmic pattern of the drums at the beginning or the way the melodies intertwine with the mid-paced rhythm and guitar lines, replace Abbath’s rasps with a clear voice and you’d have a track that could rival many of the Swedish classics.
Now you may have noticed that nothing so far sounds groundbreakingly new and that is true, there is no real evolution to be found, but this again is in the eye (or rather ear) of the beholder, as most of the songs have the quality to stand on their own, so the album will give the fans what they expect, not more, not less. “Arctic Swarm” has this intensity that draws me in, both in the tight double-bass barrage and also the atmospheric middle part, while “Mount North” is fairly standard fare, nothing to write home about, but thankfully there is still the eight and a half minute epic “Unearthly Kingdom” (which of course refers to Blashyrkh), where they go completely widescreen, with measured tempo and truly epic atmosphere, showing that they have definite talent to write these hymns and it definitely is one of the highlights of the album.
The rest of the package is impeccable, starting with the powerful and crystal clear production thanks to Mr. Tägtgren and the visual side thankfully does not feature another boring panda bear photo of the band, but an actually fittingly cold and dense artwork courtesy of Pär Olofsson, rounding off a very enjoyable and good album, which, though, could have been more, as not all the tracks manage to stand out equally. A good comeback, but “At The Heart Of Winter” still remains the pinnacle, if you enjoyed the last three albums, you will enjoy “All Shall Fall” as well, if your love affair with IMMORTAL ended with “Blizzard Beasts”, you will not rekindle your frosty affection for the trio...
(Online October 18, 2009)