by Trevor Portz
Acting as harbingers of the forthcoming winter season, Norway’s Blashyrkh masters have finally returned with yet another work of frostbitten genius, All Shall Fall. Having been in hibernation for the last few years, Immortal’s follow-up to 2002′s genre-defining Sons of Northern Darkness has certainly kept many fans’ breath well bated. But while anticipation has been high, expectation has been even higher. Luckily, it seems that the period of rest has served it purpose, as the band have delivered another in a line of high-quality albums of epic, black metal art.
The seven tracks that comprise All Shall Fall act as a culmination of everything Immortal has done up to this point, but without sounding like a rehash of past ideas. Though unrelenting in general power and intensity, the album features a variety of tempos and dynamics rather than the constant storm of blast beats and relentless speed that plagues many black metal bands. Granted, hyperspeed playing is a main facet of the style and is one of its most impressive assets, but when overused, can deter from the overall affect and create a sort of monotony. Through its mix of over-the-top speed and more relaxed, perhaps even serene passages, All Shall Fall does not suffer this fate and is able to hold the listener’s attention from beginning to end.
Without Horgh’s frantic drumming, many of the songs actually would have fit perfectly with Abbath’s hiatus-spanning I project. Several of the album’s tracks, most notably “The Rise of Darkness,” feature dark, melodic, repetitive riffs much more akin to the material of Between Two Worlds than most of Immortal’s repertoire. All Shall Fall does well to bring I into the fold, incorporating it into the Immortal canon, whether intentionally or not. At the very least, it adds yet another layer of depth to Immortal’s already very deep well.
What Immortal manage to capture—perhaps better than any other band of their ilk—is the feel of what they write about. The overall essence of their music is grim and cold, but in a way that serves to cause anxious excitement rather than icy sadness. They paint an image of vast, snow-covered kingdoms as beautiful as they are threatening. Par Olofsson’s dark fantasy artwork that adorns the packaging brilliantly depicts this as well, serving only to add to the listener’s own mental visualization. The members of Immortal clearly understand the importance of imagery and how it can add to the overall experience.
So the question remains, is this the definitive Immortal record? With so many great albums in their catalog, each with its own number of career-defining moments, it’s hard to pin such an absolute title to this one. But it absolutely lives up to Immortal’s legacy, and will only manage to build up longing and covetousness for yet another (hopefully soon forthcoming) full length. By most bands’ 8th album, merely being anything short of an embarrassment is an accomplishment. The only embarrassment associated with this album will be that of other bands unable to create a similar masterpiece. Perhaps the title All Shall Fall is more prophetic than it at first seems.
Abbath Doom Occulta (guitars, vocals)
Demonaz Doom Occulta (lyrics)
1. All Shall Fall
2. The Rise of Darkness
3. Hordes to War
4. Norden on Fire
5. Arctic Swarm
6. Mount North
7. Unearthly Kingdom
Hardrock Haven rating 9.5/10