Review Summary: Immortal Discography Review Chapter VII: Immortal's second album that brushes with the perfection that would finally be achieved on their most recent studio release, All Shall Fall.
Immortal's career is what some would affectionately describe as a roller coaster ride, Albums such as Pure Holocaust and At The Heart Of Winter proved to be some of black metal's finest, but on the other end of the scale the sub-standard Damned In Black and Blizzard Beasts showed that the band was as human as the next band. Ultimately, however, the band would iron out the creases in their thrash-ridden black metal formula, releasing two of the best in their catalogue and also two of the best that black metal had to offer. The first of these was their seventh studio release Sons Of Northern Darkness, a fifty minute long eight track affair that came right off of the back of the exceedingly mediocre Damned In Black and put Immortal back near the top of the black metal pile.
Three songs from this album are among the best in the band's entire discography, those songs being One By One, Tyrants and In My Kingdom Cold. These songs show off the band's signature sound, seamlessly fusing black metal with some of the genre's thrash influence. In My Kingdom Cold is possibly the best song they have ever written, with some brutal and yet catchy riffing and a very strong vocal performance from Abbath, unleashing some blood curdling shrieks during the chorus, screaming out the titular words "in my kingdom cold" in a tone that shows only apocalyptic chaos. Tyrants is home to one of the best drum performances Horgh ever put to record, switching from blast beats to thrash beats without any audible breaks in the sound whatsoever. One By One is the guitar player's song of this album, opening it up in spectacular fashion. However, this is not riff happy in the sense that the opener to At The Heart Of Winter was, instead being a much more refined and yet all the more ingenious style of aggression, being off the scale in both creativity and technicality. This is certainly Abbath's finest album, showcasing a musical evolution from the previous albums in ways that many guitarist's can only dream of.
The only song that shows any less talent than the others is the epic closer Beyond The North Waves which, at eight minutes in length, drags on a little too long for its own good, and repeats the same riff set a few too many times, something that Immortal are rarely guilty of. This is not to say that Beyond The North Waves is a bad song, as it is still light years ahead of much black metal. It is just a shame to see Abbath and his band release a less than stellar song, having been a band that, on its good albums, is flawless throughout. This is the one example of a great Immortal album that is not one hundred percent perfect.
The best thing about this album is that it set the stage for something even greater in the form of the band's last release to date, All Shall Fall, which built upon the thrash-influenced black metal styling the band had been experimenting with to mixed results for several albums. Sons Of Northern Darkness is a very fast, powerful and atmospheric album, with every single song feeling exactly like the lonely, desolate winter backdrops that Abbath describes so vividly in them, that is almost without fault. Were Beyond The North Waves a little shorter, this would have been their finest until the album that followed it off, as even the song In My Kingdom Cold on its own is more than worth purchasing this album for. This is definitely not a release to be missed, deserving listen from every metal listener no matter what their preferred genre, as it manages to blend many of these genres throughout, although generally sticking with the band's own sound that they have refined and honed to near perfection by this point.