When Im­mor­tal frac­tured and Ab­bath went solo, all eyes turned to De­monaz. With North­ern Chaos Gods, he proved the band had plenty of life left

Metal Hammer (UK) - - Contents - Words: Jonathan selzer

No other ex­treme metal al­bum this year ar­rived with as much an­tic­i­pa­tion – and trep­i­da­tion – as North­ern Chaos Gods. When Ab­bath and De­monaz parted ways in 2014, with more re­gret than out­right ac­ri­mony, it was the end of a unique cre­ative part­ner­ship. They had over­come all man­ner of chal­lenges over a decade and a half, re­forged black metal ac­cord­ing to their own, sin­gu­larly un­self­con­sciously OTT im­age, and had seen the band be­come an in­sti­tu­tion and a by­word for epic, some­times ab­surd, sonic ex­plo­ration. Im­mor­tal had al­ready gone on hia­tus in 2003, re­turn­ing with the ex­u­ber­ant grandeur of 2009’s All Shall Fall, but this split felt fi­nal, the two men charged with find­ing their own path out of the wreck­age.

With Ab­bath go­ing solo, the pres­sure was on what De­monaz did next. Ab­bath, as gar­ru­lous and an­tic-prone as ever, just had to con­tinue be­ing Ab­bath; the name Im­mor­tal came loaded with a quar­ter­century’s worth of his­tory, the bliz­zard-bound world of Blashyrkh to main­tain and a chem­istry to re­pair – all with­out their iconic front­man. While Ab­bath courted the me­dia and re­leased his solo al­bum, the Im­mor­tal camp – now just De­monaz and long-time drum­mer Horgh – kept mostly quiet, re­leas­ing one state­ment at the end of 2015, re­but­ting Ab­bath’s claims on what led to the dis­so­lu­tion, while the re­lease of their first al­bum with­out him kept on be­ing put back. With­out any­thing but spec­u­la­tion to go on, many feared the worst.

“When we started to write for this al­bum,” says De­monaz from his Bergen home, “I said to Horgh, ‘For­get about ev­ery­one, this is go­ing to kick fuck­ing arse.’ I didn’t want to say any­thing to any­body, even though we got re­quests. Peo­ple wanted to know the sit­u­a­tion, blah blah blah, but if I should talk about Im­mor­tal, I want to talk about what we have de­liv­ered. I just said to ev­ery­one, ‘There is a time for ev­ery­thing, and there is a time for North­ern Chaos Gods.’”

R“i wanted it to Be a fist in tHe face”

eleased in July, North­ern Chaos Gods blew away any doubts that it wouldn’t live up to the Im­mor­tal name the se­cond the open­ing track’s seething, ser­rated lead riff stormed out

of the speak­ers. If felt like an erup­tion of in­tent, a pri­mal force rip­ping through the per­mafrost from the very heart of Blashyrkh. North­ern Chaos Gods took a step back to move for­wards, delv­ing into the band’s seething core and wring­ing fresh ur­gency from it. Still lashed to a mas­ter­ful set of dy­nam­ics, the tempo changes weren’t so much a breather as a re­tool­ing of mo­men­tum.

“When you know you have some­thing, ev­ery­one else can say what they want and make up their minds up­front,” says De­monaz. “Make your own rules, your own king­dom, and your own busi­ness. I’ve al­ways en­joyed be­ing the un­der­dog, or at least have had that un­der­dog feel­ing. I think that got lost the way the band was be­fore this al­bum, in a way. It was no­body’s fault, it’s just the way things worked out. It was im­por­tant not to rush any­thing, but it was still a fran­tic, at­tack­ing sound. It’s like a nev­erend­ing pulse. When you put it on, it doesn’t stop ’til it’s fin­ished. I wanted it to be a fist in the face.”

For all its im­me­di­acy, North­ern Chaos Gods is the co­a­lesc­ing of a con­ti­nu­ity that had once seemed bro­ken. As vast and open as their sound has of­ten been, Im­mor­tal have al­ways been a cor­ner­stone of the black metal scene, and to en­ter Blashyrkh is to find a world to ex­plore, but also to be ori­en­tated amidst the clas­sic marker points of bliz­zards, bat­tles, North­ern climes and king­dom gates to be stormed. Cur­rently re­cov­er­ing from an op­er­a­tion on his back, and with an­other one pend­ing to re­place a disc, De­monaz has lots of time to think ahead for his next cam­paign, the sig­na­ture riffs that are al­ways form­ing in his head al­ready start­ing to take shape.

“The next al­bum is go­ing to be writ­ten in the same way,” he says,

“but the struc­ture of the songs may be a bit more un­ex­pected. The songs on North­ern Chaos Gods were writ­ten in the clas­sic Im­mor­tal way; you know what to ex­pect but still it makes sense. There aren’t so many sur­prises, but when it comes, it swings in the right way. I’m work­ing with a bit more of an ad­vanced struc­ture, but I don’t want the mu­sic to be ad­vanced. So you have to find that path in be­tween.”

For De­monaz, noth­ing com­pares to the feel­ing of mak­ing new mu­sic. “I think the most magic time is when you find this key riff and the hair raises on your arms, and you think, ‘Wow, this is go­ing to be fuck­ing good.’

That’s what gives me the most plea­sure. To me, the al­bum was fin­ished a long time ago, but it wasn’t fin­ished for the world be­fore it was re­leased. It was a con­clu­sion in a way. Now I can empty my brain com­pletely for the next one.”

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