Immortal

All Shall Fall

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Norwegian black metal band Immortal were always a little ahead of their peers; even on primitive early albums like Pure Holocaust and Battles in the North, they had a gift for anthemic melody that came through the almost bassless, lo-fi production. When they shifted into high gear with 1999's classic At the Heart of Winter, combining the hard-charging black metal of the early albums with the crushing thrash of German acts like Destruction and Kreator, they became one of the best metal bands around, regardless of genre. They released two more equally impressive albums -- Damned in Black and Sons of Northern Darkness -- then called it a day. Seven years later, they returned with a truly epic statement that's one of the best metal releases of 2009. The production on All Shall Fall is a thousand miles from the caveman blare of Battles in the North; they're making truly larger-than-life music as befits their pro-wrestler/barbarian-warrior image. They're writing even better riffs than before, too; "The Rise of Darkness" and "Norden on Fire" add a post-punk flavor, almost reminiscent of early Killing Joke, to their raucous metal barrages. The guitar solos are excellent, too, supported by crushing double bass drumming from Horgh, and the judicious deployment of sound effects (the charging horses on "Hordes of War," for example, or the blowing winter winds on "Mount North") makes the album even more dramatic and absorbing. As with all of Immortal's work, a frigid cold seems to blow from the speakers with every note. This is music of such unrelenting and merciless power, you might not even notice how vocalist/guitarist Abbath occasionally sounds quite a bit like Popeye the Sailor.

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