There is an odd familiarity that Death Metal and Black Metal share with each other. This may owe to them sharing a similar origin in the primordial swamp of VENOM’s early catalog, as well as the earliest days of thrash metal antiquity. Starting in the early 90s, the two styles became very distinct, mostly owing to Death Metal largely discarding most of the mystical aspects of its character in favor of a plainer violence and gore, while its ugly Blackened cousin exaggerated it to the point of becoming completely absorbed by it. However, two strains drawn out of each genre have drawn closer together, almost to the point of remerging back into the Extreme Metal archetype that came out of the early 80s, with all of the trappings of modern recording technology. These two sub-styles, which highlight a melodic tilt within their respective sub-genres, almost become synonymous with each other, as can be observed on this illuminating, if not redundant and unnecessary split album between early Norwegian second wavers IMMORTAL and Swedish Death Metal turned early Melodeath pioneers HYPOCRISY.
When analyzing the two songs that appear on here, both of them drawn from well-received albums from 2009, the similarities between the two literally leap right out of the speakers and pummel the ears. A barrage of dense, methodical, Thrash inspired riffing over top of a SLAYER styled fit of drumming is conformed to a very straightforward format that makes things ironically very easy to follow, in both cases. The approach to guitar production is also fairly similar, drawing from a somewhat bass-heavy guitar tone, though Abbath’s guitar sound does have a bit more crunch to it. Both songs could almost have been written for the same album when taking them solely on their most obvious stylistic trappings, particularly the similar sounding combination of consonant minor key progressions.
Naturally some obvious differences manifest themselves upon closer examination. HYPOCRISY relies a good bit more on two guitar harmony here, and has a slightly more MAIDEN oriented feel to the overall melodic content found in the music, while IMMORTAL accomplishes its magic through a nebulous series of tremolo melodies, which interact with an otherwise straight up set of blurry power chords. There is a definite separation between the two in terms of atmospheric quality, as “Valley Of The Damned” has a somewhat mechanical character to it, while “Hordes Of War” has more of an archaic, mystical character. Likewise, Abbath’s vocal character has more of a raspy, muttering character, while Peter Tägtgren sticks to a much deeper set of guttural barks and bellows more along the lines of Corpsegrinder or David Vincent. But perhaps the biggest separation is that unlike HYPOCRISY and a number of other modern Melodic Death bands, IMMORTAL has maintained the old fashioned practice of a clearly defined guitar solo section rather than a strictly structured instrumental break, bearing a closer similarity to the pre-1993 eras of Thrash, Death and Black Metal. This difference, alone, turns one song into a heavily climactic celebration of Metal classicism, while the other is more fun than outright riveting.
In terms of a comparative study of modern Metal genres or a potential pick up for a rarity collector, this otherwise purposeless release does have a good bit to offer. There is a definite stylistic consistency to be found in comparing these two individual songs that would probably not be present if taking the two albums they are taken from as a whole and doing the same comparison. But insofar as how one should spend their hard earned cash, the most advisable route would be to pick up both “All Shall Fall” and “A Taste Of Extreme Divinity”, as they are both excellent releases by two upstanding Scandinavian bands.
(Online January 10, 2012)