Immortal – War Against All Review

In 2018, the mighty Grymmcat and I tackled the Demonaz-ed version of Immortal. And, boy, did we dread the task. I mean, how can Immortal be good without Abbath at the helm? Sure enough, we were both surprised. Not only did I like Northern Chaos Gods, but it was good! With the help of a few notable guest appearances, Demonaz recreated the Immortal of olde. Known for riffs that one can only describe as “icy,” this trusty trio of Demonaz, Horgh, and Peter Tägtgren brought the riffs, the melodies, and the Bathorynees like it was the first time. Now, ole Horgh and Pete are gone, replaced with the infamous Ice Dale on bass and Kevin Kvåle on drums. But, like Abbath, these other names are only hired guns. This is the Demonaz show. But will Demonaz fall the way of Abbath’s Dread Reaver, bury anything interesting in the mix, and assume only his ideas are correct? Or will Demonaz continue to surprise the masses?

Right away, there are two significant differences between Northern Chaos Gods and War Against All. The first is the dynamics. With a whopping DR10, War Against All spanks its predecessor with a spiked glove. The only issue is you still can’t hear shit. I hear the vocals, the guitars, some drums, and zero bass. Seriously, the only song where I hear the bass is the closer. The second difference is the music itself. While Northern Chaos Gods felt fresh and energetic, War Against All does not. Instead, it sounds like a collection of all the more-generic Immortal material re-recorded with snappy new production. The severe lack of urgency takes everything from Northern Chaos Gods and flushes it down the toilet.

To make matters worse, you can immediately sense this issue in the back-to-back title track and “Thunders of Darkness.” While “War Against All” is a pleasing song that tears scrotums and sets the mood for the album, its repetitious use of the song title becomes distracting on repeat listens. Even with the mood set, it isn’t retained or built on for the rest of the album. And while there’s some variation in the riffs on “Thunders of Darkness,” the verse arrangement is basically identical to “War Against All.” On the first spin, I actually thought I was still listening to the opener until the chorus finally kicked in.

And while I love those heavy, mid-paced plods so common to Immortal albums, “Wargod” and “Return to Cold” feel tired. Both songs have those classic builds, with reverberating cleans and melodic character, but both have difficulty finding their footing and direction. The most interesting track on the album is “Nordlandihr,” mostly because it’s an instrumental. What’s surprising about this piece is that there isn’t a single riff change in its entire seven-minute runtime. Instead of using the time to build off different riff ideas and climb that dreaded mountain that every album seems to mention, it’s just a clean-to-distortion rollercoaster of the same thing. It works for a while, but when you discover that nothing is changing or going to change, it’s time for it to end. Also, there needs to be more bass presence for an instrumental.

If it wasn’t obvious, I do not like War Against All. It’s bland and generic, somehow plagiarizing itself without doing anything new or exciting. Not that I always need something new from Immortal, but the opener is the only exciting piece on the album. The only passion I can feel is in “Nordlandihr”—probably because it’s new to them. And can we please stop with this “Blashyrkh” shit? Demonaz might be the heart of Immortal, but an occasional new idea couldn’t hurt. I’m annoyed that I can’t get into this album. It actually hurts me. But War Against All is lifeless, and I cannot bring myself to listen to it again, which breaks my cold, black heart. 

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 10 | Format Reviewed: 276 kb/s mp3
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Websites: | |
Releases Worldwide: May 26th, 2023

Written By: Grymm

Man, has it really been five years? In 2018, before the world went to utter shit in a cough-inducing handbasket, legendary Norwegian black metal duo Immortal returned with their ninth album, Northern Chaos Gods, after a bitter, ugly departure of longtime co-founder and bassist/guitarist/vocalist Abbath. And now, in yet another dramatic episode, remaining members Demonaz and Horgh also had a legal falling out, with the former continuing on without the legendary drummer. Now, with Enslaved’s guitarist Ice Dale providing bass and Gaahls Wyrd’s Kevin Kvåle on drums backing dat (Demon)az up, we’re now gifted with War Against All, the tenth chapter in the ongoing saga of all things Blashyrkh, winter, ravens, and what-have-you.

And just like its predecessor, the opening title track quickly reminds you who’s in charge here, as Demonaz slices, dices, and juliennes you with razor-sharp riffs and tremolo melodies while Kvåle blasts relentlessly in reckless abandon. Its immediate follow-up “Thunders of Darkness” also shows absolutely no mercy, as Demonaz cuts loose a short but tasty lead that accentuates the ferocity and iciness of the surrounding fury. From these two tracks, Demonaz set himself up for what would be a glorious follow-up to a strong statement of intent that was Northern Chaos Gods, that Immortal is back. Immortal is strong. Immortal is immortal.

Yet, that’s when things start to go pear-shaped. Demonaz’s over-reliance on airy Bathory melodies, a trope that worked on the last album, rings hollow here, as they’re used too much and are all too similar sounding. During “Wargod,” he uses one after corpse-painting himself into a corner with a boredom-inducing mid-paced riff. Elsewhere, “Nordlandihr,” the album’s instrumental, tests your patience at two minutes, yet goes the distance at over seven. “Immortal,” Demonaz’s new statement of intent that “(he) is Immortal” falls flat when riffs and melodies sound so similar to those from Northern Chaos Gods, but not nearly as potent or memorable. Finally, closer “Blashyrkh My Throne” overstays its welcome when every previous trope on here rears its ugly head for the finale before cutting out in the final second nearly six minutes later. I’m not kidding you, I thought my headphones died a violent and horrible death the first couple of times I listened to the track until I realized it was mixed this way on purpose.

But another thing that sullies my enjoyment of the album, and it, unfortunately, can’t be overlooked in this case due to the overall quality of War Against All, is the drama surrounding the album’s creation. Look, I’m no lawyer, and I’m not pretending to be one. I’m just a fan of metal music and a fan of Immortal who just happens to be in a (admittedly lucky and blessed) position to talk about the music I love to an audience who reads what I have to say. But Immortal… well, Immortal more-or-less Batushka’d themselves. In their defense, at least Immortal and Abbath released good albums since their ugly break-up, but since then, it’s been a slow, steady, and honestly pathetic downturn for all parties involved when you watch from the sidelines. If I wanted to witness this level of drama, I’d re-engage in the comments section of the YMIO for Blut Aus Nord.1 Concentrate on the music, and not the extracurriculars, because if you can’t, it’s only going to get far, far worse from here on out.

And I’m sorry to say, but this is where I’m jumping off of one of my favorite bands. Sure, War Against All is a war against haters, doubters, backstabbers, and betrayers. It’s also a war against self-editing, new ideas, desperately needed outside input, and creativity. I’m baffled and troubled at what Immortal is becoming, and to say that I’m let down by War Against All isn’t even beginning to paint an entire picture of the 38 minutes of boredom I experienced. Since “sad” isn’t a rating here, “disappointing” will have to do. I wish Immortal well. It was nice knowing you.

Rating: 2.0/5.0

Show 1 footnote

  1. Fight me.
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