The Northern Upir's Death
(Darkness Shall Rise Productions)
IMMORTAL is a band that needs no introduction, having established themselves as one of the greatest and most formidable Black Metal bands in the genre’s history. Having formed in Norway in 1991 and producing a prestigious output consisting of ten instantly recognizable full lengths across over 30 years, “The Northern Upir’s Death”, the newest compilation of the band released by Darkness Shall Rise Productions serves to revisit the absolute earliest point of IMMORTAL’s storied career. The compilation combines the 1991 “Immortal” demo, the 1991 “Immortal” EP and a 1992 rehearsal session in one release and has the material brought to new life thanks to remastering from Patrick W. Engel at Temple of Disharmony. Beginning with the 1991 “Immortal” demo, one hears the band playing a version of dark, rancid Death Metal, a sound that pre-dates the bands transformation to full-on Black Metal. A good reference point for this material can be found with some of the member’s prior bands around this period of time, specifically AMPUTATION and OLD FUNERAL. All three primary tracks of the 1991 “Immortal” demo are comprised of riff-centric guttural Death Metal with a heavily frontal vocal presence. The double-guitar attack of Jorn Inge Tunsberg and Demonaz conjoin with the percussive spine laid out by Armagedda to drive the tracks, with the remastering and rebalancing by Patrick W. Engel, they are far more balanced than the original versions. The vocal presence of Abbath is still extremely heavy in the mix, but accents such as the solos on ‘Enslaved In Rot’ have far more pronunciation. Armagedda’s percussive mix is largely regulated to a flat boxy bass drum tone, a neutral mid snapping snare and an overall flat splay to the cymbals, but for an early 1990’s Death Metal demo, the quality is still rather good. The tone of the bass drums is most prevalent during the early section of ‘Left On The Stake,’ during the rapid fire double-bass section at the beginning of the track and during some of the transitional sections between verses. The demo closes with a short outro that is less than a minute long. With the 1991 “Immortal” EP, it is now that we hear the transformation in sound where IMMORTAL transitions from dark Death Metal to their infancy stage of early primitive Black Metal, and eventually to their signature sound that would go on to define their career. There is a short intro to open the EP and then ‘Unholy Forces Of Evil’ begins. Gone is the guttural Death Metal tonality and the suffocating crushing riff work that defined the length of their 1991 demo, in its place is now an entirely different style of vocal patterns from Abbath, the riff work is more atmospheric and chromatically spatial, the chord progressions have become more synchronized and deliberate, and the execution more methodical. The line-up was slightly different now, with IMMORTAL performing as a three-piece at this point, with Demonaz writing all the guitar parts himself. Armagedda’s drumming was more tempered, the wild flurry of double-bass and blast beats were toned down into something much more accommodating and fitting to this new tonality. Between the 1991 “Immortal” demo and the 1991 “Immortal” EP, these releases sound like they were recorded by two completely different bands. ‘The Cold Winds Of Funeral Frost’ is perhaps the most fitting example of early IMMORTAL showing a glimpse of its future self to the world and is also a fitting example of the power of early Norwegian Black Metal as a whole. Demonaz’s furious combination of dissonance and consonance in his riff work would be the foundation of many of IMMORTAL’s early classic songs. Both ‘Unholy Forces Of Evil’ and ‘The Cold Winds Of Funeral Frost’ would show themselves again on the debut full length “Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticism”. The 1992 rehearsal material consists of two tracks, ‘Blacker Than Darkness’ and, once again, ‘Unholy Forces Of Evil.’ These are both very raw and very abrasive recordings, treats for hardcore IMMORTAL collectors. The sound quality is as good as to be expected for a rehearsal tape, the bass guitar is squashed from the mix completely, while the guitars dominate the mix entirely. The drums are regulated largely to the timely pop of the snare and the occasional muting quality of the cymbals and bass drum. This material is more on par with the 1991 “Immortal” EP era, so it’s in tune with the Black Metal era of the band. The 1991 “Immortal” demo has never been properly reprinted, and the rehearsal material has never been properly released at all. The 1991 “Immortal” EP has seen a few bootleg reissues and a few official represses, but “The Northern Upir’s Death” finally consolidates and combines these early relics in one place for hardcore IMMORTAL fans to finally obtain with ease. For information on IMMORTAL, see www.facebook.com/immortalofficial and for more information on Darkness Shall Rise Productions, check out www.facebook.com/darknessshallriseproductions.