“I don’t know if we’ll see the end of the world, but it’s definitely the end of what used to be. Prepare for chaos with a grin on your face! And don’t be afraid, just listen to Immortal.” ~ Abbath
That quote sums up my appreciation for this band quite succinctly. Life is an exercise in absurdity, and more than enough grim shit will find each and everyone one of us at one point or another, so it’s best to make sure to always have a grin close at hand. What’s going great today could be brought to a sudden end tomorrow by careening buses, bad salmon, hurtling meteorites, Mesoamerican omens, hunting accidents, falling pianos, toasters in tubs, exploding buildings, unglued psychopaths, animals attacking, or the bloody Apocalypse. Reprieve is achieved once one learns to face it all with flamboyant middle fingers to the cosmos and the occasional foray into the wilderness while embracing the ludicrousness that is grown men in boiled leather pants, spiked armor and panda paint. That is Immortal. That is the necessity of Immortal.
Black metal’s most iconographic battle wizards have finally returned after six long years of silence. The hype has been massive, and based on Abbath’s relatively recent output through his “I” project, excitement levels have essentially launched through the roof.
The 10-cent question: does All Shall Fall deliver? That depends on which side of the fence you happen to stand. Those who’ve spent the better part of the last two decades mocking these defenders of Frost & Forest will likely still mock them; this record sounds like a logical addition to the At the Heart of Winter brand of Immortal, and there are no new tricks up the band’s sleeve. Co-founding member and now (relatively) silent partner, Demonaz, clearly stated the biggest surprise for fans will be the fact that “we kept our sound.” Although that may seem remarkably unadventurous to some, many will undoubtedly find comfort in the idea that some metal bands remain literally frozen in time.
A warm, familiar BLECH hits within the first minute of the opening title track, then the record settles into precisely what’s expected: moments that flail, stretches that gallop, and passing occasions where bits of mellowness do an admirable job of swirling up more cold atmosphere. The first three tracks are standouts for delivering blows more determinably, but “Norden On Fire,” “Mount North” and closer “Unearthly Kingdom” all flash memorable points interspersed with the sort of melodic flair that made a record like At the Heart of Winter a fan favorite. All Shall Fall doesn’t come close to reaching the same highs as that record, but there are highs here nonetheless.
We also get what we’ve come to expect from the band in terms of lyrics and vocals: a joyous preparation for frosty End Days croaked through the well-worn chords of one of black metal’s most recognizable reptilians. Honestly, what else would you possibly expect? And luckily, the years haven’t really diminished Abbath’s grit & vigor all that much. He’s become sort of a poster ghoul for living hard, having fun, and leaving the unpleasant “burn out/fade away” portion of the equation as something to deal with in the distant future.
It would be damn-near impossible for a band to live up to the hype whipped up behind a release such as this. In the end, those who have been hoping to simply hear Immortal again should find well enough good on All Shall Fall to be satisfied. A little older, a little slower, and maybe not quite as grim as they were years ago, but it’s damn nice just to have an opportunity to hear all these familiar Immortalisms whipped up again.