Sound — 8
Immortal was originally founded by Abbath and Demonaz in 1990, and they released eight albums since that time - the most recent being 2009's "All Shall Fall." In 2015, problems began to surface in the Immortal camp with different stories coming from different members. Abbath's story is essentially that the other members moved their gear out of their practice space and he was under the impression that they had left the band. Demonaz and Horgh tell a different story, that Abbath had begun acting erratically and missing rehearsals. Demonaz and Horgh claim they confronted Abbath who agreed to go into a rehab program, but he changed his mind and left the band, instead. At this point, he filed for rights to the name Immortal through the courts but lost, which is also the only common thread in both versions of the story. Regardless, during the lifetime of Immortal, Abbath has played almost every single role in the band by playing guitar, bass, drums, keyboards and vocals at different points in time, and has been a strong part of the creative energy behind the band. Abbath's solo effort is proof that he definitely knows what he's doing. Abbath performs guitar and vocals on the album, King ov Hell performs bass, and Creature performs drums. Ole André Farstad guests on lead guitar for the tracks "To War!," "Count the Dead," and "Fenrir Hunts." There are 10 tracks on the album with an approximate runtime of 48 minutes.
The album opens up with pummeling guitar and drums on "To War!," causing uncontrollable head-banging. The music stays brutal, but leaves a little room for the guitar to be interesting including a solo by Ole André Farstad. "Winter Bane" has an insane rapid staccato beat going on with the bass drums while he also stays rather busy with the sticks, which really showcases Creature's skill and shows why he has been successful as a black metal drummer in numerous bands. The track makes me want to rock in my chair along to the guitars, with a distinct groove carrying this track. "Ashes of the Damned" is a high energy track, with a few standout moments that really make this a cool track. As an example is early in the track the vocals come up front, cleaner than normal for a guttural "Ashes of the damned, UH!" accompanied by keyboard. "Ocean of Wounds" is another fine example of Creature's drumming, but also shows Abbath playing some rather infectious guitar riffs that begin to stand out more and more as the album progresses. "Count the Dead" has an intro of rain sounds which quickly opens up to a fairly aggressive track, once again finding Abbath's guitar riffs to be the standout portion of the track - with the exception of the lead/solo guitar played by Ole André Farstad. "Fenrir Hunts" reminds me of a lot of classic black metal with an opening that essentially consists of a blast beat and Abbath screaming "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!," but some other elements creep into the track as it goes. This is another track with a solo/lead provided by Ole André Farstad. "Root of the Mountain" sounds like it could be stoner metal in the first 30 to 60 seconds, but resolves into a dark metal dirge. "Eternal" has that extreme metal freakout quality that reminds me of the early days of black metal, only with better production. Even on "Eternal" I find myself enjoying the guitar. "Riding on the Wind" is a bonus and cover of the Judas Priest track from "Screaming for Vengeance." The album closes out with the second bonus track, "Nebular Ravens Winter," is a reprisal of the track from Immortal's 1997 album, "Blizzard Beasts." I prefer the reprisal, but it is going to come down to personal opinion - both versions have different things going for them.
Lyrics — 8
Abbath provides vocals on the album, and as always black metal vocals are really hard for me to rate. While I have definitely gained an appreciation over the years for extreme genres of metal, mostly I listen for the vocals to have a good dose of "oomph" behind them, and express the emotion on the tracks. With that being said, I appreciate that for the most part I could understand the lyrics on this album without having to look them up first. Listening to Abbath's earlier vocal efforts with Immortal and following the timeline you can hear both the improvement in production and skill. The lyrics are pretty much standard fare for a black metal album. As a sample of the lyrics, here are some from the track, "To War!": "Speed demon spread thy shanks wide/ Shower offense, Defile/ Citadel pure desires' vice/ Damnation nigh, Behemoths feast/ Old bloodlines die/ Warriors' caste feed raging beast/ Hear the roar of battle-horn, To War/ Dread Reavers rise from dismal mist/ Ghouls emerge; catalyst/ Form jagged spike; studded fist/ Lean years breed a skeletal corps/ Deviant yield, Omnivore/ Tide devour craven shore/ To battlefield stream the warm, to war."
Overall Impression — 8
Whatever the real story is with Immortal, Abbath has released a solid album that proves that he's a creative force in his own right. While it is still very early in 2016, so far I would have to say this is one of my favorite if not my very favorite metal album released so far. My favorite tracks from the album would probably have to be "Winter Bane," "Ocean of Wounds," "Count the Dead" and "Root of the Mountain." I look forward to hearing more from Abbath in the future.