Immortal - At The Heart Of Winter review
|Album:||At The Heart Of Winter|
01. Withstand The Fall Of Time
03. Tragedies Blows At Horizon
04. Where Light And Dark Don't Differ
05. At The Heart Of Winter
06. Years Of Silent Sorrow
Have you ever heard of a black metal fan who doesn't like (or at least, admits to not liking) Immortal? Well, I happen to be one of those fans. I was never able to really like Immortal's mixture of thrash and black metal, which was present even on their earliest albums (although, far less than now) despite them being constantly labelled as pure black. Sure, there had always been a song or two that once entered my head, couldn't get out of there for days. But, in the overall, they are not really interesting to me. And here it is, their perhaps most highly praised release, At The Heart of Winter. I was so anxious to hear it. "Who knows, maybe it will change my opinion about them", I thought. Well, it most certainly didn't.
Not only did Immortal not get more "black" with this release, but instead, they even made it their most thrashy and technical release up to date. No filthy production, no tremolo picking, no blast beats... Yes, this is not a black metal release, this is a slightly blackened thrash album. Now, you might be thinking why the heck I am making such a big deal about the genre of the album. "If it sounds good, who the hell cares what genre it is?!", right? Perhaps so, but that is the easiest and most elaborate way for me to explain what kind of music it is. You see, I think that the very reason of Immortal being so popular is the very reason I don't like them. That strange mixture of black and thrash. Well, in this album the thrash factor is taken to a really high level. The album is mostly based around a mid tempo, with Abbath's usual vocal style somewhere on the line between shrieks and growls, and catchy, powerful guitar riffs. Or at least, that's what they should have been like.
Unfortunately, I have to say that this part of the album has been screwed. Immortal took a wrong turn somewhere, and in their attempt to make a memorable, catchy, yet heavy album, they just made one that mostly feels like a dragged, uninspired mess. I'm sorry, I know how much people like this thing, but I can't escape the feeling that the idea of how this album should have sounded like was realized in a poor way. Some songs are undeniably good. "Solarfall" is the best on the album, and if they had done the rest like they did that one, it would have been excellent. Sadly, the vast majority is just so without emotions, without feeling, so... generic. To prove my point better, let us compare my loved "Solarfall" to, say, "Years of Silent Sorrow". The beginning riff on the first of the compared is so damn catchy, so memorable, powerful, full of energy. It just makes you want to stand up, and get to jumping and head-banging. The second one is just full of riffs that will bore you. It neither has the catchiness and energy a thrash metal song should, nor the cold, evil, morbid atmosphere a black metal song should. Somewhat simplistic notes repeated over and over again that just go over your head is something unforgivable in a release by Immortal. The same goes for the vast majority of tracks, with some exceptions, of course.
This review has been hard for me. I was constantly striving to see just what is so good about this album, even from a standpoint of an Immortal fan. I failed. I might even go as far as calling it the weakest effort of the band. Even though I might not like what Immortal does, they deserve credit for successfully blending the two mentioned genres, and making a practically a new one. Not here. Were it not for Abbath's characteristic vocals, and that usual way the group tune their guitars, I would have sworn this was not their release. You might think I'm being too harsh. Well, I sure am. If this really wasn't a release of the one Immortal, the album would have been good, maybe even very good. But Immortal proved that they can and must do so much better than this.
|I'm afraid I lack the linguistic resources to clearly explain what makes the album the work of genius that it is, so I will be brief and remain vague. Luckily there is very little that needs to be written about this album. It has been around for a decade and has developed a sufficient following to articulate its greatness. Any fan of black metal, or indeed metal in general, should find this album, buy it or steal it, and worship it.
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