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Album Review: IMMORTAL War Against All

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While Abbath was able to leave Immortal after the famously way-too-long-and-drawn-out dissolution of the band to quickly find success on his own, his former partner from the cold and distant lands of Blashyrkh has had a rougher time climbing to the peak of the snowcapped mountains. In fact, Demonaz has enjoyed only small fraction of the limelight since sailing off without his once long-standing counterpart. While legally maintaining the rights to the use of the name "Immortal" for some time now, Demonaz hasn't, in my mind, really made the most of the moniker. That, however, changes now with War Against All. This is a record that is undoubtedly worthy of the Immortal brand.

You might remember Demonaz's first record on his own, entitled March of the Norse. That came out over a decade ago under his own name. While it wasn't a bad release by any stretch of the imagination, it did not measure up to really anything Immortal had ever put out. Sure, "All Blackened Sky" had some stellar riffing and "March of the Norse" featured some nicely layered guitars, but the record just didn't have the speed or the ferocity that Immortal is so well known for. It didn't stand out.

Enter Northern Chaos Gods in 2018. This record, featuring Horgh on drums (who also was involved in legal battles over the use of the band name) had the speed and was close to getting back the sound and the atmosphere of the Immortal heyday. There was, however, still something missing, as many of the tracks seemed to blend together after multiple listens. While I was initially into the record, I found my interest in it start to wane and I yearned for something greater… something… older sounding. And I've found it with War Against All.

War Against All, without any doubt, is the strongest record Demonaz has worked on without Abbath. I believe there are two primary reasons why this record is elevated above his earlier work. The first has to be the production and recording team of Arve Isdal (aka Ice Dale) who you already know as one of the guitarists in Enslaved, and his partner, Herbrand Larsen, who was the keyboardist/vocalist in Enslaved up until just a few years ago. This new record sounds better both in terms of the mixing and the recording. In fact, I can actually hear the bass on this one! That, meshed with the crisp sound on the guitars, really showcases and more aptly features the quality of the riffs and song structures. Second, is the favor of speed over melody in the songwriting, which is more representative of Immortal's Battles in the North era.

That crispness in the sonics is front and center on "Wargod," which also features a vastly improved vocal track compared to anything on "Northern Chaos Gods." And while many might sigh and claim that it sounds a lot like the Immortal classic, "Tyrants," I might actually agree and then go on to say that it's one of the reasons that it works so well. Demonaz isn't trying to do something different here and, in fact, he quickly admits that "Tyrants" was the inspiration to the track, as was Celtic Frost's classic To Mega Therion. If this type of inspiration is able to bring us music like "Wargod," I'm all for it because this is the very strongest song he's written as a solo artist.

Similar to "Wargod," the song "Immortal," is also clearly inspired by the golden era of band. The guitars on "Immortal" are straight out of 1997 as is the atmosphere. Many of the songs here sound and feel like they could have been on earlier albums and that's what will make this so enjoyable for longstanding fans. That same familiarity is ever-so-present as well on songs like "Return to Cold" which sounds an awful lot like the band classic "Blashyrkh (Mighty Ravendark)" at the very beginning of the track.

The nostalgic feeling is also present on tracks like the galloping instrumental "Nordlandihr," which will have you imagining yourself on your trusty moose riding through the Northern Darkness. Same with the positively ferocious "No Sun." The latter of which will have you headbanging to massive groove on the low end and the wall of layered, tremolo guitars that will complete engulf you faster than a northern Norwegian blizzard.

Overall, this is the Immortal record we were waiting for. Eight really solid songs that unabashedly emulate the glory days of the band. War Against All is a must-have for any Immortal fan.

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