All Shall Fall
Sadly, not even close to reaching their potential
In what would have to be one of the most highly anticipated black metal reunions, possibly of all time, Immortal, Norway’s most grim and frostbitten band, have come together once more after a seven year recording hiatus with All Shall Fall, their eighth full length release.
One would be forgiven for assuming that after seven years away Immortal would return to the fray with a sense of rejuvenation and some musical progression but, strangely, All Shall Fall bares more than just a passing resemblance to 2002’s Sons of Northern Darkness. In many ways the two are actually very similar albums so anybody hoping the band might revisit their Pure Holocaust days should leave their expectations at the door. I have to admit that I fall into this category, never having really been all that interested in the band’s post Blizzard Beasts material or, at least, nowhere near as much as I was in the albums that lead up to that point anyway, but I digress.
Putting All Shall Fall on for the first time was a pretty exciting experience. The fold out packaging is great, the typically ridiculous (and obligatory) band photo on the inlay is superb and the opening bars of the title track are like rekindling a relationship with a long lost friend. I must’ve had the cheesiest grin on my face when Abbath growled out his first “uuurgh” of the album which, unsurprisingly, comes along very quickly in the first track - a highly melodic and suitably frosty little number that pays suitable homage to late era Immortal material. The pace is slowed down a tad as the title track segues into the rigid rhythms of The Rise of Darkness and then picks up again for the old school black metal stylings of Hordes to War. This trio of strong tracks is capped off nicely with the overt grandiosity of Norden on Fire.
Now it’s true that these four tracks are by no means Immortal classics but their charm lies in the fact that they are easily accessible which, ironically, ultimately proves to be their undoing after the album has spun a handful of times as it is swiftly revealed that there is nothing lurking behind the facade. They are what they are and frankly, once the nostalgia and excitement of hearing a new Immortal album has worn off, they just aren’t that strong - certainly not bad, but definitely not what one would expect from a band of this calibre that is trying to reclaim their place in the black metal genre.
This then leaves us with the remaining three tracks on the album which at best are OK and at worst are average and seem hastily (and lazily) put together. As Norden on Fire gives way to Arctic Swarm the album feels different, as though the energy has been sapped out of the room leaving behind a group of tired musicians to write tired material. The pacing is slow, the song writing is uninspired and the vibe is nonexistent.
I’m not sure what it is. Maybe they came out too strong from the start or maybe they just didn’t have enough solid material or wealth of ideas to work with but, whatever the reason, All Shall Fall becomes a very top heavy album that could perhaps have been better presented as a four track EP rather than a fully fledged LP. There just isn’t enough steam to power the ship for the album’s 40 minute duration.
The problem with All Shall Fall as I see it is that, overall, it feels uninspired and flat. Even those four opening tracks I mentioned before start to lose their shine after only a handful of listens. Yes there are some undeniably good bits and pieces scattered throughout the album but where’s the passion, the fire, the heart in it all? Where’s the urgency in the material that has driven so many of Immortals prior albums? As far as I can tell, it’s nowhere to be found.
While All Shall Fall is by no means a failure, it isn’t even close to being a victory for the band either and is even less so when you consider that this is their first album in seven years. All I can hope is that this is Immortal’s Souls to Deny - a reasonable reunion album that lays the groundwork for something absolutely stunning because, really, if this is to be the quality of the material we can expect from this reformation, the band needn’t have bothered getting back together at all.
(Nuclear Blast Records/Riot! Entertainment)