Review Summary: Immortal Discography Review Chapter VIII-Finally, perfection is achieved in the form of the most restrained Immortal album to date.
The most recent album in Immortal's vast catalogue of albums is one that is often debated among fans of the bands. A near direct clone of predecessor Sons Of Northern Darkness, this album is a blackened thrash album containing some lightning fast blast beats and thrashing riffs that are, for the most part, a slight regression from that album. However, this album is easily the catchiest the band has ever put out, boasting moment after moment that leap out at the listener and some incredibly melodic cleaner sections such as the one found just three minutes into the title track that opens up the album, and all of this is smoothed out by one of the crispest black metal production jobs ever done. There really is a lot to talk about with this album but it is at heart an Immortal album in the purest sense, boasting a much more accessible sound than many of the more well known bands of the black metal scene with riffs that are equal parts catchy, brutal and technical and the usual lyrical themes about the winter and the ice.
The stellar opening track All Shall Fall shows just how talented Immortal clearly are, with a very progressive song structure, boasting crushing mid-paced riffs and flurries of insanely fast tremolo picking, before finding the most beautiful interlude in almost all of the black metal genre. By this point, the listener should be wondering how they got from A to B, with riff changes galore whilst still maintaining a blitzkrieg blast beat filled drum performance from Horgh. This is a ridiculously tight performance from the band including a stellar solo, with Abbath's usual furious screeches completing the deal. The obvious improvement is found straight away in the production, which ditches the cliched lo-fi sound of most black metal bands, and is instead very well produced, with each instrument being more than audible, without mashing together to make a wall of sound. In the case of this album which is more focused on actual song writing skills than playing as fast as humanely possible the production works very well with it and makes it all the more listenable, and is one reason to take this over their other albums.
The comparisons can clearly be made to Sons Of Northern Darkness and this album frequently has criticisms leveled at it for not having evolved at all despite the fact the band had seven years between their previous album and this one with which to hone their song craft even further. However this is certainly not entirely true, despite the actual sound being relatively similar to the album that came before. On here, the atmosphere is a lot more present, created mainly through the ingeniously placed clean sections that build a feel of mourning and loss before the brutality kicks back in again. The thrash elements that the band had been experimenting with for years prior to the release of this album were once again prominent, but they are used very differently to Sons Of Northern Darkness, which was primarily a lightning fast ear assault, whereas All Shall Fall has far more slower and more restrained sections. The Rise Of Darkness kicks off as being the thrashiest sounding song the band has ever put out, sounding similar to something Slayer or Dark Angel would have put out but with a more extreme sounding vocalist, and it works to much surprise. This is one of the best songs off of the album, giving the album a much more diverse feel than any Immortal album to date, and highlights the change between Sons Of Northern Darkness and All Shall Fall. The technical riff work found towards the end of this song is some of the best on the album, and Abbath sounds completely demonic whilst Horgh takes time to lay down some more varied beats than what would usually be found on an Immortal album, jumping between a slower beat for the first half of the song and a more traditional black metal blast beat towards the end of it, showing a real level of musical talent.
The lyrics and vocal work that delivers them is worth noting on this album, being one of the real reasons behind its success. Listening to the music, ones jaw might drop at the atmospheric sound that feels completely apocalyptic and lonely, as though the band were alone in the middle of their own personal Hell without a friend to help them, and this is where the lyrical concepts come in. For those unfamiliar with Immortal, they created many years ago a fictional kingdom created from their own isolated feelings living in Bergen in Norway. They entitled this kingdom Blashyrkh, and over the course of the albums following its invention, they added to the mythology surrounding it, drawing up a vivid image of a Hellish ice kingdom based on where they lived in Norway itself, with the winter and heavy fog and trees capped with ice, adding to the mixture demons that represented their own fears. The kingdom is home to numerous battles with these demons, that the band chronicle through their songs, and this album is no different, with much of All Shall Fall residing within Blashyrkh, describing once more the demonic surroundings the band find themselves in. These lyrics of desolate lands ruined by ancient demonic warfare provides for the perfect subject of the songs themselves, already made so atmospheric. However, combine this with the nasally tones of Abbath, who consistently sounds as though he has a severe cold and one has the most chilling, frighteningly constructed atmosphere to grace the music industry in a long time. This is the real triumph for All Shall Fall, where it fires on all cylinders and delivers the most jaw dropping experience one will find. The technical instrumental work matters not when one has beautiful melodic sections followed by utter brutality such as what is found on Norden on Fire, a song that conveys such a feeling of desperation through its riff work and overall melody that it is something to marvel at.
This is Immortal's finest work by a long way, for the simple reason that it takes the flaws of the previous album and manages to correct them whilst still enhancing their sound to an insane degree. Whereas the closer to Sons of Northern Darkness felt unnecessarily long, every song on All Shall Fall no matter what their length feels fully formed and perfectly written, each one giving the same beautiful brutality the band has been making for years now. If Immortal were to quit now, then they would have left us with their masterpiece. However, with another album confirmed to be four songs into writing, All Shall Fall is not the last one will hear from the Norwegian black metallers, and one can only wonder at what direction the band will go in next.