Sound — 9
In a nutshell, the Norwegian Black metal scene has had its highs and lows. This extreme yet intricate form of metal, has to me been slowly deteriorating over the past few years. Bands that were once great, seem to have run out of fuel, and lost the passion to keep on creating great materiel anymore (Satyricon...sorry guys). Yet even with all the fuss, a few select black metal bands just keep on ticking, one such being Immortal, displayed in their 8th installment "All Shall Fall", an album so grimly frostbitten it rapes blizzard beasts. After spending much time performing live that year the band entered both the Grieghallen and Abyss studios in April, 2009 to start recording the album, their latest since 2002.
The first thing you will notice, is the albums sound quality. Unlike the traditional OL' SKOO' disgusting production for black metal bands, Immortal raise the production quality up 5 notches. Even compared to their last album, "Sons of the Northern Darkness", "All Shall Fall" is louder, heavier, with a lot of added low end to enhance the album's sound. Abbath, the bands guitarist, shows off his signature melodic, yet dissonant guitar riffs more than ever on this album, with some of the catchiest Immortal riffs ever written. Horgh (drums) always seems to astonish me with his fast, complicated drum patterns keeping up with the guitars. His snare on this album sounds deeper than SOTND, and its a nice little tweak that improves the sound to my ears. Apollyon, the bands bass player since 2006, is really the entity who supplies this album with all its juice. Through the scorching guitars and larger than life drumming, there is a throbbing rumble that keeps the music together, the BASS. While the bass lines themselves may not be the most creative, its the thick sound of the bass itself that makes all the difference, an attribute that divides Immortal up from the black metal stereotype of bassists being useless. The style itself of the album is less disharmonic than SOTND, and could be compared to the style of At The Heart of Winter.
This is a review of each track separately:
01. All Shall Fall: overall, this is what you could expect from Immortal. Most riffs are based on 3 chords, which could get a little bit dry, but this only lasts for 2 minutes, until a short guitar solo seeps through the mix, and the music comes to a stop. From there, comes a surprisingly majour note based clean guitar melody, which builds up to a thumping demonic build up. Here, Abbath chillingly displays some of my favorite vocal parts in the album.
02. The Rise of Darkness: starts with a syncopated, palm muted chuggariffic riff. Just like the first song, it starts of OK, but near the middle, the songs really shows its true colors, with a riff reminiscent of an earlier riff in Solarfall. That is one of my favorite riffs off all time, so clearly, this section was a joy to listen to :) The songs fades out nicely with a ferocious guitar section, and a lead guitar part that lingers ontop of the rest of the mix.
03. Hordes To War: the heaviest song of the album. This song just keeps on grinding, and barely gives the listener time to breath with riff after riff after riff bieng blasted at you. Unfortunately, it lacks a bit of substance on that note, and nothing truly memorable happens during the song, giving it little re playability. Not a terrible track, just not impressive compared to the other works of this album
04. Norden On Fire: the songs creeps in with an eerie rumble, and then, a revolutionary step from Immortal is taken, as an ACOUSTIC GUITAR comes in! But, the Norwegians just can't keep things clean enough, and add some buzzy effect to the natural sound of the acoustic. The rest of the instruments come in, an this time, the song hits it from start to finish. A great vocal supporting section early on, to another clean section, and yet another memorable riff. This song also incorporates a tapping solo. As you would expect, incredibly rare for black metal, but Immortal possess the persona to pull it off.
05. Arctic Swarm: easily one of the best tracks off the album. Starts off with a amazingly headbangable riff, somewhat reminding me of a minimized version of One on One's main riff. Now at 1:36, is when the listener jizzes, because Immortal bring you the most grim, frostbitten, chilling, icy, epic Riff, which i can imagine, will be a killer live. I can't find enough synonyms of the word "cold" to describe this song to you readers, just buy the album :P
06. Mont North: yet another jaw dropping track. The Drumming really shines through for me on this one, and ads a certain primal "groove" if you will, to the song. Impressive guitar work is displayed this time too, with several short fills, and a solo to top it off. The review length of this song doesn't mean anything, this is indeed a fantastic song.
07. Unearthly Kingdom: I feel that Immortal truly delivered a phenomenal closing track. The static strings at the start accompanied by choir, gets interrupted by a "fist in the air" riff, which then speeds up to a memorable, heavily palmuted section, which breaks down into the best clean section of the whole album, which epically builds up into yet another apocolyptic section, which slowly fades out, signaling the end of the album. Possibly the best closing track Immortal has ever written.
Lyrics — 8
The lyrics on this album, as with Immortal's previous works, have been written by Demonaz Doom Occulta. What more could you expect, than grim tales of battles in snow, chilling forested kingdoms, frostbitten doughnuts (not really), and all that good juicy stuff. On "All Shall Fall", this is exactly what is delivered. You either love it, or hate it, or just plain don't mind. But in my opinion, the thing to be reviewed, is HOW the lyrics were delivered through Abbath's vocals. To be frank, his voice has not changed at all. In general, he sounds as same as he ever did. But then again, I feel the vocals on this album are more diverse. Besides the squirming sections (what other way to describe his vocals?), there are intriguing speaking sections, which really provide a creative, and epic feel to certain sections of songs. Not including a few unique/new styles of screams here and there, Abbath is still the vocalist he was 6 years ago.
Overall Impression — 9
In conclusion, this album serves Immortal very well. It probably isn't the best they have ever written, but "All Shall Fall" to me, surpasses "Damned in Black", "Blizzard Beasts", and even "Sons of the Northern Darkness". SOTND was without a doubt a great piece of work, but "All Shall Fall" is a combination of At The Heart of Winter, and Immortal's newer works, which certainly puts them in their prime. The most impressive songs would have to be "Arctic Swarm", "Mont North", and "Unearthly Kingdom", but every single song has great live potential, which is also important. If it were stolen, I would find the thief, crucify him on a forsaken plank, and let him rot outside in the winterstorm...and of course buy the album again :P
Nomatter which chapter in Immortal's saga of albums you prefer, this album combines the melodic approach the their earlier works with thumping riffage and lots of ice. All fans will appreciate this album. BUY IT!