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Black Metal History

Essential Black Metal Listening: IMMORTAL – Pure Holocaust

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By Atanamar Sunyata

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As part of Black Metal History Month, we will be highlighting some of the most important black metal releases of all time for your reading pleasure. Here is our first entry in the Essential Black Metal Listening category:

Pure Holocaust is Immortal's sonic statement of purpose.  Their debut album, released a year earlier, had set them apart from their black metal peers in theme and tone.  Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticism proved Immortal to be the kings of all things grim and frostbitten, eschewing Satanism, paganism and nationalism in favor of epic battles in the frosty fictional kingdom of  Blashyrkh.  The preposterous video for that album's title track revealed a theatrical flair for the absurd, setting Immortal well apart from their somber Norwegian counterparts.  It wasn't until Pure Holocaust, however, that Immortal's music stepped away from the pack.  Improved production, peerless swarming riffs, concise but grandiose songwriting and a raging rhythmic assault push Pure Holocaust into the pantheon of black metal classics.

“Unsilent Storms In The North Abyss” is your stunning initiation into realm of Blashyrkh.  Memorable and instantly recognizable riffs roll in an unstoppable avalanche of sound.  The drumming, performed ably by Abbath himself, unfurls with a savage and precise ferocity.  The warm and organic drum sound on Pure Holocaust is amongst my favorite of any metal album.

Every aspect of Immortal's game is accelerated on Pure Holocaust.  Demonaz unleashes distinctive riffs with uncanny rapidity, tremolo picking at inhuman speeds.  Guitars and drums appear to be locked in a race to the icy death, constantly challenging each other for dominance.  The album indicates a deep desire to up the black metal ante, bringing an increased focus on speed and brutality without completely breaking the mold Quorthon had so expertly cast.  The bombastic dynamics on Pure Holocaust indicate a tremendous influence from latter day Bathory albums (Blood Fire Death in particular).  This is a good thing.

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Abbath's voice comes into its own on Pure Holocaust, assuming the iconic grim croak we know and love.  This over-the-top vocal approach lends a strange alacrity to Demonaz' frosty lyricism. We get hyperbolic tales of bestial battles, eternal winters in endless woods and demonic holocaust in realms of frost, all narrated with froggy flair.  The evocative frigid imagery is an integral part of the album's brilliance; Pure Holocaust always makes me reach for the lyric sheet and always makes me smile.

Pure Holocaust is a model of infernal efficiency.  There are no extended or sprawling compositions here, only compact and concise songs meant to sting your memory like shards of ice.  The title track closes the album with incredible style, bestowing us with a final cache of cachinnating riffs.  Bang your head, juice the oranges and dance around like a painted fool.  Believe me, no one will make fun of you.  I don't think anyone intended for black metal to be such joyous fun, but that's the essence of Pure Holocaust.

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