1992 was a big year for Norwegian black metal. Darkthrone’s classic A Blaze in the Northern Sky
, Emperor’s Wrath of the Tyrant
demo, Burzum’s self-titled debut, and of course Immortal’s landmark release Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticism
were all unleashed upon the unassuming ears of alienated teenagers everywhere. Before the notoriety associated with the Norwegian black metal scene regarding arson, murder, and suicide was built up, Immortal’s grim & frostbitten anthems were taking the metal underground by storm. By avoiding drama and never taking themselves too seriously, Immortal carved out their own sound and niche and quickly established themselves as a household name in the black metal scene.
Immortal didn’t really break the rules here like they did with the fluidic, off-time melodies on their subsequent album Pure Holocaust
. Instead, they took what black metal already had to offer and advanced it; made it more complete. Bleak, trance-inducing melodies spiral about in contrast with triumphant Bathory-like rhythms and acoustic breaks varying in length to conjure images of snowy mountains in the distance on a moonlit night. There is a strong sense of journey here; like that of a hopeless winter trek towards an almost unachievable goal. I can feel the depression that is brought about by the long, cold, dark Norwegian winter while listening to this, if that’s any testament to Immortal’s effectiveness in getting their point across.
Instruments mesh into a micro-symphony for each song; no one musician goes off in his own direction but instead chooses to remain a part of the unified whole. Solos are never overly showy and compliment the narrative of each song with a smooth melodic overlay instead of being sections devoted to showing off. The granular production only helps the album. Guitars are fuzzy and pushed back in the mix but remain clear while the bass carries the low end nicely. Drumming is fairly basic black metal drumming, alternating beats to match the rhythmic velocity and texture of the riffs and to drive the pieces forward.
Though Abbath & co. really came into their own with their unique wintry guitar textures on their subsequent album Pure Holocaust
, the stripped-down yet varied architecture of Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticism
is epic and adventurous on its own terms. This album should not be overlooked by anyone interested in black metal not just for its historical significance, but also for its sheer quality.