Ber­gen, Nor­way’s much-loved iconic black met­allers en­ter their postAb­bath era.

Af­ter Ab­bath re­turned from the rub­ble of Im­mor­tal, all eyes turned to what re­main­ing mem­bers De­monaz and Horgh would do next. Now that ques­tion has been an­swered

Metal Hammer (UK) - - Contents - WORDS: DOM LAW­SON

Of all the bands that emerged from the Nor­we­gian black metal ex­plo­sion of the early 90s, Im­mor­tal alone elicit the kind of mad-eyed de­vo­tion that marks out the truly leg­endary. Con­se­quently, the band’s re­turn stands out as one of the events of 2018. But the im­pend­ing re­lease of ninth stu­dio al­bum North­ern Chaos Gods isn’t just the next chap­ter in an il­lus­tri­ous saga; this time, new Im­mor­tal ma­te­rial ar­rives bear­ing the weight of long-held ex­pec­ta­tions and against a back­drop of be­hind-the-scenes tur­moil caused by the ac­ri­mo­nious de­par­ture of tal­is­manic front­man Ab­bath in 2014, and a sub­se­quent le­gal tus­sle over rights to the band’s name and logo.

In Oc­to­ber 2015, re­main­ing mem­bers De­monaz and Horgh is­sued a state­ment in the wake of win­ning the court bat­tle, declar­ing that “the con­flict was not about any­one leav­ing the band, as Ab­bath claimed. It was all about his per­sonal prob­lems. He had can­celled re­hearsals and ru­ined the band’s progress for a very long time. We were forced to con­front him about it… He told the band, friends and fam­ily that he needed to go to re­hab again. He had got help from a clinic be­fore. We of­fered to wait for him to re­cover this time also. Sadly, he changed his de­ci­sion.”

Ac­cord­ing to the state­ment, Ab­bath then se­cretly ap­plied for a trade­mark own­er­ship of the band’s logo and name, only to be de­nied by the court who sur­mised, not un­rea­son­ably, that he was a co-writer rather than the band’s sole com­poser. The even­tual re­sult of those not en­tirely ed­i­fy­ing le­gal pro­ceed­ings is that Ab­bath is now a solo artist and Im­mor­tal are back, not so much in a new in­car­na­tion as an old one re­designed: for the first time since 1997’s Bliz­zard Beasts al­bum, founder mem­ber and long-time lyri­cist De­monaz is back on gui­tar and, for the first time ever, pro­vid­ing vo­cals, too. Back in 1997, he had to step away from his on­stage role as a re­sult of a bru­tal dose of ten­donitis, but a com­bi­na­tion of ne­ces­sity and good for­tune have brought him en­thu­si­as­ti­cally back to Im­mor­tal’s on­stage A-team.

“I had a shoul­der op­er­a­tion in 2011 and it made my arm work prop­erly again so things be­came dif­fer­ent,” he shrugs. “The vo­cal thing? Well, me and Horgh were work­ing on the songs for the al­bum and we just de­cided that I would do the vo­cals. It felt nat­u­ral to do it. It’s dif­fi­cult to ex­plain, but we’ve worked so hard on this band for all these years that it just felt nor­mal to do it. I’ve been a part of this band since we started it, so who else could do it?”

For once in the metal world, this is a line-up shuf­fle that few purists should com­plain about. De­monaz is both an orig­i­nal mem­ber and the chief ar­chi­tect of Im­mor­tal’s con­cep­tual uni­verse, while Horgh has been a per­ma­nent fix­ture in the band since the mid-90s. This be­ing 2018, of course, the re­turn of Im­mor­tal with­out Ab­bath will in­evitably re­ceive its fair share of spitty-lipped op­pro­brium. This, daft peo­ple will doubt­less say, is not the real Im­mor­tal.

“Well, I can’t re­ally think about that,” De­monaz muses with a chuckle. “If we had to think about what peo­ple thought of this band from the start, we would’ve bro­ken up many years ago. There were al­ways a lot of crit­ics, right from the start. It was like, ‘We’re Im­mor­tal and no one likes us!’ you know? Ha ha ha! We al­ways felt like that. Hav­ing said that, there is a great bond be­tween us and our fans. They will un­der­stand that we never gave up on this band. We never stopped. And now it’s time to move on.”

As it turns out, De­monaz and Horgh seem to have been hold­ing the black metal equiv­a­lent of a royal flush. From the blitzkrieg bat­tery of the open­ing ti­tle track on­wards, North­ern Chaos Gods is an ex­plo­sive, grip­ping and supremely con­fi­dent re­turn; eas­ily as epic and vi­cious as any­thing in Im­mor­tal’s cat­a­logue and yet sub­tly fresh and sur­pris­ing, too. The ab­sence of Ab­bath’s iconic snarl and trade­mark gui­tar tone aside, it’s hard to imag­ine a more im­pe­ri­ous mu­si­cal re­birth, as songs like the seething Into Bat­tle Ride and the Maiden-salut­ing Where Moun­tains Rise strike a sub­lime bal­ance be­tween grandeur and grim­ness. There is a def­i­nite sense that a lot of time has been spent on en­sur­ing that the new al­bum is ex­actly what it needs to be, re­gard­less of what fans or crit­ics might be de­sir­ing or ex­pect­ing.

“We just said, ‘Let’s take a step back and do this prop­erly and de­liver the best al­bum we can…’,” De­monaz states. “We’ve al­ways talked about mak­ing the ul­ti­mate Im­mor­tal al­bum, but we never re­ally had the chance to think it through prop­erly. So maybe that’s

“There’s noth­ing To re­gret”

DE­MONAZ RE­FUSED TO PIAF ABOUT AF­TER AB­BATH’S DE­PAR­TURE

some­thing we’ve done this time. We had no pres­sure, we just took our time and made a fuck­ing kick-ass al­bum. We didn’t think about per­fec­tion. Every­thing felt nat­u­ral. We had time to think, maybe for the first time. I guess you could say that we had all the time in the world! Ha ha ha!”

It’s far from un­usual for a Nor­we­gian black metal mu­si­cian to ex­press a to­tal dis­re­gard for out­side in­flu­ence or pres­sure, but some­how it rings far more true com­ing from De­monaz. Im­mor­tal have never ex­hib­ited even the teen­si­est sliver of in­ter­est in com­pro­mis­ing on their orig­i­nal vi­sion, lyri­cal flights of fancy through the myth­i­cal, sym­bolic king­dom of Blashyrkh in­cluded. If any­thing, North­ern Chaos Gods rep­re­sents the ex­pan­sion and re­fine­ment of that ir­re­sistible Im­mor­tal essence, as if all the tri­als and dis­rup­tions of re­cent years have pushed De­monaz and Horgh to fo­cus ever more closely on what the now-front­man de­scribes as “the right Im­mor­tal feel­ing”.

“We wanted to cre­ate a di­verse al­bum, but still fast and spec­tac­u­lar,” he grins. “The last track, Mighty Raven­dark, it’s nearly 10 min­utes long, it’s re­ally epic. I al­ways wanted to do some­thing like that, some­thing mas­sive. Per­haps this was our first op­por­tu­nity to do a few of these things, but if you lis­ten to the al­bum, you’ll hear a lot of that old Im­mor­tal feel­ing, too. I’m re­ally into those first four or five al­bums and I wanted to bring back the in­ten­sity that we had at that time. I re­ally wanted that to come through the speak­ers, that Im­mor­tal at­tack.”

As fu­ri­ous as the songs on North­ern Chaos Gods man­i­festly are, De­monaz him­self cuts an ami­able and re­laxed fig­ure to­day. No­tice­ably de­lighted to hear our pos­i­tive first im­pres­sions of the new al­bum and ea­ger to note how ex­cited he is to be res­ur­rect­ing the band he formed way back in 1991, he nonchalantly notes that, “I just didn’t see any rea­son to put this down and I think peo­ple will un­der­stand that.” Of course, he is also more than aware that many peo­ple will be hop­ing for vit­ri­olic de­nounce­ments of his for­mer band­mate, but sev­eral years on from the split and with a brand new al­bum primed for launch, Im­mor­tal’s other founder mem­ber has al­ready moved on. With the al­bum com­pleted and pro­mo­tion un­der­way, he is now be­gin­ning to fo­cus on es­tab­lish­ing and re­hears­ing a new line-up for the in-the-flesh on­slaught to come. De­monaz’s long-awaited re­turn to the stage, you may be ec­static to hear, is very much on the cards. Mean­while, he and loyal com­rade Horgh have sim­ply picked up where their band left off nearly a decade ago, armed with that un­mis­tak­able Im­mor­tal spirit and driven by a pri­mal need to keep plough­ing – or per­haps blast­ing – in­ex­orably for­ward into the bleak Blashyrkh land­scapes, with no com­pro­mises and no re­grets.

“Do I re­gret any­thing? Not re­ally, be­cause I can’t change any of it,” De­monaz muses. “We tried to solve the sit­u­a­tion with Ab­bath, but in the end we couldn’t agree on it. It doesn’t look like that’ll change in the fu­ture, so yeah, I guess you never know. But 2014 wasn’t the first time. The band broke up once be­fore. Some de­ci­sions were made and we moved on. There’s noth­ing to re­gret. That wouldn’t help me or any­one else. So it’s his­tory and I can’t change his­tory. The only thing we can do is try to make the best out of the sit­u­a­tion… and to make sure ev­ery al­bum kicks the ass of the last one! Ha ha ha!”

NORTH­ERN CHAOS GODS IS RE­LEASED ON JULY 6 VIA NU­CLEAR BLAST

“our fans un­der­stand that we never gave up on This band”

DE­MONAZ IS DRIVEN BY A PER­SIS­TENT GENE

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