Battles in the North
’s third studio album, released in 1995 this was definitely Immortal
’s first turning point. This album is of the Black Metal
genre but there are some strong elements of thrash metal as well. This is one brutal black metal album, when people think of Immortal
they think of average paced black metal. That
couldn’t be further from the truth and this album proves it.
Battles in the North
definitely has some distinguishable differences from their last album Pure Holocaust
. First of all this album seems to sound a lot more raw and darker. They really have changed their sound quite a lot when it comes to this, totally different atmosphere and emotion behind the music. The recording quality is probably the major difference because in Pure Holocaust
the recording sounded a lot more rounded and even spread. In this album, the music seems to be separated by the instruments and affects. The good thing about this is the drumming seems to have its full effect. The blast beats in this album are probably the best I’ve ever heard; they sound clean and clear and also they seem to stand out a lot more. This is really good because nothings worse than playing double kicks really fast and it being drowned out.
The vocals have also changed a bit, rather than singing slowly and dragging the words on for longer than they should the lead singer has chosen to quickly sing a five word line in short bursts. He does this constantly throughout the whole album. Also the style he uses is still the same as in Pure Holocaust
and even now. It’s that style where he voice sounds very raspy and crackly but he doesn’t make it sound like he is screaming his lungs out at you with overwhelming despair and emotion. The mood within the vocals sounds a little bland because of the very short intervals between his already short lines. This might not be a bad thing because it actually highlights the music and since its taking front stage, it was a good move on Immortal
There seems to be a lot of swinging between moods on this album, once second it sounds like hollow brutality is taking the lead and times where atmosphere is playing a big part. During the ‘atmospheric’ parts, they have tried to make it sound dark by having the riffs drag on very long and it seems to have a sort of swaying affect. Also the tuning and the distortion of the guitars really do give off a very dark vibe to it as well, with ads to the swaying affect in the music. Speedy drumming doesn’t usually fit the bill very well when it comes to atmospheric music in general. Although this is the case for many bands, Immortal
have seemed to implement it very well, so well that it really makes the album as a whole standout from the rest. Compared to Pure Holocaust
, the drumming is extremely fast and is actually clear this time. All the beats are clean and crisp and there is none of that “humming” usually associated with poor recording quality. He also have a very fast high pitched double kick which surprisingly matches the pace of the music.
The sheer tightness of the music on this album is probably the main highlight. Well timed and rounded and for a black metal band they are really technical as well. Rapidly changing riffs and sections and rapidly changing moods and atmospheres as well. Also there doesn’t seem to be any overpowering in the music, everything seems be evenly balanced when it comes to the instruments themselves. Other than the vocals though, the vocals are a little too quiet and because of this they sound out of place.
There are a few really good tracks on this album which will seduce any brutal black metal fan. Although they all sound similar, there are a couple of interesting tracks on here. Unsurprisingly they have opened the album with an incredibly fast paced track, Battles in the North
is very fast paced but still has the tint of atmosphere in it. It is basically an introduction for the album and shows off what it features; great blast beats and fast double bass, their classic vocal style and the swaying atmosphere. But what makes it stand out from the rest is the very raw vibe it has, this tells you a lot about what someone should expect next. When it comes to blast beats this album has some of the best in black metal, but the track Moonrise Fields Of Sorrow
is arguably the best track on the album. The blast beats are incredible and my favourite in black metal. Also it is a short, sweet and by the end it should leave any fan feeling that they have been satisfied of their hunger for brutality and a side of atmosphere.
At The Stormy Gates
is an odd track, it still sound very linear compared to the other tracks but somewhat stands out from the rest as well. Maybe it’s because of the vocal style. Unlike the other tracks, the vocals on At The Stormy Gates
sound like there are two people singing instead of just one. The only reason why it stands out is because it is something a little different than the rest of the album. The final track to mention is the last track Blashyrkh (Mighty Ravendark), this is probably the standout track. This is the only song that doesn’t follow the exact same suit as the other. The pace is different, the vocal style is different, the atmosphere is different and even structurally its different. This is great because ending the album with the same think heard ten times before is not a good way to go out.
Although this album is incredible and is one of the albums responsible for making Immortal
what they are today, it is not perfect. The first and foremost thing to mention is the sheer receptiveness of the album, this is a classic example of why brutality does not always equal interesting. Once
I was up to about the fourth track I was already bored to death. It was only until I hit the track Moonrise Fields Of Sorrow
that I began to respark my interest in the music. After that it was more linear plain music that bored me again. That
being said, the final track Blashyrkh (Mighty Ravendark)was a very good song for the album to go out with. It’s only the tracks Moonrise Fields Of Sorrow
and Blashyrkh (Mighty Ravendark) that have saved this album from being a plain dead album. Other than that the music is really good.
Overall Battles in the North
is still an incredibly good and respectable album. Aside from all the linearity that almost killed this album, it still features some gut busting brutality in the music with some of the best blast beats in black metal not to mention it’s atmospheric side as well. This is all thanks to the awesome recording quality which puts all the components of the music together nicely. Not just instrumentally but they have managed to combine speed with darkness and atmosphere which sounds like a perfect mix. I recommend this album to anyone who enjoys extreme metal in general and I would strongly suggest this album to anyone who like darker music. This album is guaranteed to leave any black metal fan satisfied. Furthermore, I recommend the track Moonrise Fields Of Sorrow
for anyone who likes their blast beats or who is looking for a quick black metal fix. For people who are looking for something a little more different, try the song Blashyrkh (Mighty Ravendark) it gives you a break from all the other bits and pieces that this album consists of. Overall I think that this is a still a good album but it’s the sheer repetitiveness that lets it down. So Battles in the North
gets a 17/20.