It’s quite unfortunate that a band as historic and special as Immortal is troubled with problems between the members and legal disputes. So, it’s not enough that 2018’s “Northern Chaos Gods” was their first without founder/guitarist/singer Abbath, three years ago Horgh (ex-Hypocrisy), one of the best drummers in the history of extreme metal, also left after being in the band since 1996.
Essentially Immortal has become the solo project of co-founder Demonaz, who appears as the only member and from the previous record took up the guitar again after many years after a tendinitis problem prevented him from playing at fast speeds until he had the surgery he needed . He also takes over the vocals, which are very good but don’t bring out that classic vitriolic tone of Abbath. On bass, production and additional guitars we meet Ice Dale (Enslaved, Audrey Horne) and on drums Kevin Kvåle (Gaahls Wyrd).
With this strange feeling I started listening to Immortal’s tenth full-length, hoping it wouldn’t be like “Northern Chaos Gods”. Not that it was bad, they just chose a much more aggressive and raw direction in music and production. With very few exceptions, the epic cold melodies that had become the band’s trademark were missing. And listening to the first two songs of “War Against All”, it seemed to me that it would be one of the same. Finally, the mid-tempo “Wargod” made me reconsider and what came next was even better.
The excellent “No Sun” brought back memories of the masterpiece “At The Heart Of Winter”, “Return To Cold” and “Blashyrkh My Throne” are also at a very good level, while the seven-minute instrumental “Nordlandihr” is a nice choice. These are basically the reasons why “War Against All” stands out and reminds something of the greatness of the band’s past. It’s aggressive, it’s atmospheric, it’s icy, it’s inspired. It’s certainly better than the vast majority of black metal out there. But is it Immortal without Abbath and Horgh?