Hard to believe it, but it’s finally here! The long-awaited solo debut of Demonaz. Some of you may still remember Perfect Visions, the low bitrate demo and its problematic sound that was circulated years ago. I doubt that fans who heard it didn’t fall for the four songs immediately because despite the bad production the coldly distant, mysterious epic mood was something to worship, remember and hope for in terms of a future full-time debut. In due time an announcement was made and the record was given the title March of the Norse as well as record label home in Nuclear Blast, also responsible for Demonaz’s other obligations in Immortal. The only question is, was it really worth the wait?
First things first, if it’s your first time with the album and you expect something (in)directly inspired by Immortal, then just drop it. Get this straight now: THIS IS NOT A BLACK METAL ALBUM [Actually, I think it counts if you count Bathory as black metal, this just isn't Immortal. - AMG]! So, if you’re not bothered with that, you’ll probably be OK with the material written by Demonaz for his solo work. Stylistically, it has little to do with the major sound of the infamous Immortal and in fact it’s fairly different even from those aforementioned demo tracks, admittedly a slight letdown for fans who expect to hear something more atmospheric in terms of overall sound, because that’s exactly what made the demo that addictive and the waiting even harder. However, what we get to hear in March of the Norse still has that epic spark of Demonaz’s creative genius but it’s a tad more typical, straightforward and generic than before.
Yeah, yeah, despite the warnings, it’s clear that people will always expect to hear the freezing Norsk riffage even on such an album. But so was Demonaz himself when he recorded it and he promised that he’d work hard on this, as well as on the mood of the tracks which was said to be closer to a weird Manowar / Bathory mix in the choruses, something easily distinguishable on “When Gods Once Rode” and the melodic “A Son of the Sword.” Lots of promises were made and despite they were not all fulfilled, the major key-elements are here to stay and please the listeners. The influences from Bathory’s viking period are all but unnoticeable, as for the vocals, well, itâ€™s like Abbath meets Quorthon/Lemmy. The riff constructions along with the staccato rhythm sections are reminiscent of what we heard on Between Two Worlds from I. Which makes sense since the instrumental side of the record is in fact created with the help of Ice Dale and Armagedda who worked on that monstrous classic.
Depending on what you prefer, from vaguely blackened heavy through ambient middle parts or just addictive choruses, the highlights may vary. The open minded Immortal fans will be pleased and maybe even impressed. “Under the Great Fires” and “All Blackened Sky” are natural-born headbangers with their perfect guitar work and solo parts, while “Over the Mountains” and “Legends of Fire and Ice” are a lot more influenced by heavy metal or even NWOBHM at times, being the most atmospheric pieces of the entire opus.
All in all, March of the Norse a fairly intriguing record. It’s nicely done and beautifully performed, and it’s an album for those of you who want to get to know a slightly different side of the multi-faceted work style of Demonaz. Cast all prejudices and expectations aside, let go of what you heard in the demo, dive into the waters of March of the Norse and enjoy it in its entirety. For all its worth and experimental value, it deserves your time and respect.