Review Summary: Insane guitar leads and epic song structures blend to form a Black Metal landmark.
I usually approach music with a very optimistic attitude, and I’m willing to buy an album without even hearing anything before from the band who crafted it. I’ve been occasionally disappointed by them, like Hypocrisy’s Into The Abyss
, and I’ve been blow away by them, such as the absurdly good Silent Waters
by Amorphis. Well folks, the legendary Black Metal act Immortal was one of those bands which fell onto my “I’ll check these bands out one day or another” list, and kind of sat there for a few months. Whenever I was at the store and had an Immortal album in my hands, such as Pure Holocaust
or Sons Of Northern Darkness
I seemingly always found something which caught my attention more.
However, a few weeks ago I went out to the store with a mission. One way or another, no matter what other albums ripped my attention out of the album at hand, I would buy an Immortal album. For sure. No joking around this time. So, there I was pondering over Pure Holocaust
, At The Heart Of Winter
, and Sons Of Northern Darkness
, deciding which one to buy. I’m going to be quite frank and honest here, the only reason I chose At The Heart Of Winter
was because it was the only Immortal album which didn’t have these terrible band pictures smeared all over the album covers. I mean come on, Immortal CANNOT take a picture without looking downright ridiculous. Not to worry though, because now I can honestly say that I made the correct choice, because At The Heart Of Winter
was soon propelled into my top 10 Black Metal albums of all time. Indeed, everything about this album was completely unexpected, completely
unexpected. I don’t know why the hell I hadn’t looked into these guys earlier, because what they create here is some of Black Metal’s finest riffing and most epic songs.
The level of songwriting ability put forth here is simply off the charts. The riff changes are almost constant, and not in a bad way. It’s like going from one insane riff to another equally insane riff. The guitars are what set this album apart from almost any other Black Metal album I have heard prior to this. The way Immortal fits in all of these sweet melodic riffs and melodies while still managing to maintain the true Norwegian Black Metal sound is simply remarkable. Other bands like Dissection did something similar, yet sometimes brought forth a Death Metal feeling to the music. Not here though, stunning guitar leads are the norm, with the amazing opener “Withstand The Fall Of Time” churning out almost 9 minutes of nearly constant walls of riffs, drums, cymbal crashes, and screeching vocals. Not even the production takes away from the intricate song structures. Production wise, this album isn’t nearly as bad as other Black Metal I’ve heard, but as always it could be better. Not to say that this would make the album as a whole sound better though, since I think the production helps capture the feeling of true Norwegian Black Metal.
The other instruments keep up the pace just as well. The drumming is top-notch stuff, with lots of cymbal crashes and an almost frantic pace. A sweet fill accompanies some of the transitions between riffs, really bringing the drums out in front for all to notice. With every song over 6 minutes, and three of them stretching past 8, it’s safe to say Immortal used every trick in the book to try and captivate the listener and keep his or her attention throughout the entire running time. Vocally, this is a serious Black Metal album, nothing resembling a Death Metal growl and no clean vocals make an appearance here. To be honest, I actually don’t mind the lack of vocal variance, because the insane guitars make up for it and more. The title track “At The Heart Of Winter” is a monster, with the growling vocals raging early and the guitars and drums shredding away behind them. Seriously, this is Black Metal at it’s finest, this is the kind of stuff that makes me proud to listen to Metal, because no other band outside of the genre can rival the raw emotion and feeling put forth here.
Songwriting talent and musical vision at it’s finest, Immortal lay down what may be the pinnacle of their career with At The Heart Of Winter
. The album title says it all, giving a complete description of the cold, brutal (yet beautiful) atmosphere portrayed within the melodies and screeching vocals. I know it made a lasting impression on me, and I know I will forever be enthralled by the cold vision of Winter which Immortal released here. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to buy more Immortal albums, since I don't want to be left in the dark regarding this band any longer.