If ever there was an album to define a genre, it most certainly is Desert Northern Hell
. Every single aspect is 100% pure Norwegian black metal at its absolute zenith, no ifs, ands, or buts.
The atmosphere: The overall feel of this album is all-out mercilessness. The guitars are always blacker than darkness itself, the drums hammer away in an artfully crude manner, the bass is inconsistently audible, and the vocals evil and cutting as they come. This all creates a very "black" feel, for lack of a better word. Battles in the North
, what I consider to be black metal's other defining album comes off as grim and cold. This is definitely a different, altogether more evil kind of black metal. This evil feel is really the soul of the album, everything is done to serve this feel, and this feel does so much more than any technical instrument could do on its own.
-gun quick tempo changes, all executed flawlessly keep the pace of this animal interesting. Just as one slips into a comfortable groove, Wham! A hailstorm of blasting drums and cutting guitars jar the listener awake. Song structure and length vary greatly, which also helps this album stay out of the mud, so to speak.
Technically, I would be hard-pressed to find any errors in the album. Every transition is seamless, every note clear and true. The tremolo picking is moderated nicely, and is always executed flawlessly, along with every perfect blastbeat. The bass when audible adds muscle mass to the otherwise cutting and lithe sound. This conditional use of bass is great because the album never sounds too beefy, like death metal, but never gets too wafer thin, like far too much black metal. Crust and punk influences are nonexistent here, which keeps the album pure.
Standout tracks would have to be Possessed
, and above all Unholy Paragon
. The riffs/tempo changes in these two almost hospitalized me with neck injuries, and I NEVER headbang to black metal. A previous reviewer mentioned the listener's jaw smashing to the floor, and mine did just this. Unholy
paragon will blow you away. My one grievance with this album is the Bathory
cover. I don't dislike how they covered it, I just don't care much for the song, and I feel like a cover version kind of spoils the absolutely magical ingenuity of the rest of the album.
I would recommend this album to anyone who loves black metal, because this is black metal at its most unhallowed epitome, begrimed and spewing distilled hatred. I would recommend this to anyone who hates black metal because, even if you can't bring yourself to like the overall sound/vibe, I promise you will find at least two jaw-dropping moments. Finally, I would recommend this to anyone new to black metal. This album is exactly what satanic black metal should sound like - sharp as a razor, and blasting as a machine gun. It does not have the cold/grim feel of Immortal
, etc.. Instead it is just black. It is an absolute scimitar of an album.