Album Review – Immortal / Northern Chaos Gods (2018)

The Gates of Blashyrkh have finally opened again to the sound of the pulverizing new album by the Northern Chaos Gods of Black Metal.

The Gates of Blashyrkh have finally opened again now in 2018 thanks to Bergen’s own Black Metal institution Immortal, who after nine long and excruciating years of the release of their 2009 album All Shall Fall are back in action with a brand new opus titled Northern Chaos Gods, a beyond fantastic comeback for one of the trailblazers of Norwegian Black Metal. The first album after the departure of founder, frontman and guitarist Abbath from the band in 2015, Northern Chaos Gods marks the longest gap between two studio albums by Immortal, but the wait was definitely worth it as Immortal sound extremely sharp and vile throughout the entire album, proving once again why they’re still an unstoppable force of frost and ice.

Featuring a dark and straightforward cover art by Norwegian artist Jannicke Wiese-Hansen, Northern Chaos Gods showcases an inspired Demonaz (Harald Nævdal) on vocals and guitar (for the first time since 1997) and a brutal and extremely precise Horgh (Reidar Horghagen) on drums, accompanied by guest bassist Peter Tägtgren. In an interview before the album’s release, Demonaz said he wanted to make the album as “grim, dark and cold as possible”, and Immortal more than succeeded in their quest for extreme music, delivering a raw piece of Norwegian Black Metal that takes the band right back to its early sound. Each and every song in Northern Chaos Gods is a lecture in darkness, pointing to a bright (or I should say obscure) future ahead of a band that might have suffered a few losses since their inception in the far, far away year of 1991, but that stands triumphant and loyal to their roots no matter what.

The title-track Northern Chaos Gods comes crushing mercilessly in an absolute sonic devastation blasted by Demonaz with his fulminating riffs and Horgh with his classic Black Metal blast beats, resulting in a truly old school tune but without sounding obsolete or cheesy, not to mention the excellent job done by Demonaz with his infernal roars. As violent and somber as its predecessor, Into Battle Ride is an ode to Black Metal with highlights to the lancinating guitar lines by Demonaz and the thunderous bass lines by Peter, also bringing inspiring lyrics vociferated by Demonaz (“The sword of thunder and lightning is on the rise / From the north the gods of wrath descend / The storm of war nearing, black in its sign / Now vengeance shall enter again, feared by mortals / Our yearning steel strong hands / Thundering hooves strike above dying men / Down the black valleys arise through the haze / From the mountains, hear battle and death”); whereas Gates to Blashyrkh is a lot more melodic and rhythmic, perfect for banging your head and raising your horns to the hellish duo Demonaz and Horgh. Put differently, simply ride together with Immortal to the Gates to Blashyrkh and enjoy a huge dosage of top-of-the-line Melodic Black Metal invading your senses. And Grim and Dark is another cadaveric and sinister creation by this Norwegian entity, led by the slashing riffs by Demonaz while Horgh keeps crushing his drums nonstop, flowing majestically until its crisp and ominous ending.

There’s no time to breathe with more traditional Black Metal in Called to Ice, with Demonaz’s visceral riffage being effectively accompanied by the galloping sound of drums and bass in five minutes of classic Norwegian Black Metal for diehard lovers of the genre, before a smooth and melancholic intro quickly explodes into a lecture in modern-day Black Metal in Where Mountains Rise, a headbanging tune where Horgh’s beats sound amazingly crisp and heavy while Demonaz keeps slashing his strings with sheer precision and vocalizing the song’s beautiful, poetic words (“For the mighty mountains I ride / Through the woods beyond the snow / Like a fire among the stars, beyond the clouds she rise / There’s no fire from the sun, in this dark under the moon / My blackened sight beholds the stars, and fallen suns below”). Back to a more extreme and piercing sonority we have Blacker of Worlds, where Horgh presents his violent bulldozer mode and with Demonaz and Peter delivering a storm of blackened sounds through their stringed weapons, hammering our heads until Mighty Ravendark strikes our minds like a thunderbolt, exhaling malignancy, darkness and evil. Moreover, Horgh and Peter generate a massive wall of sounds with their drums and bass, respectively, while the hell raiser Demonaz keeps growling and gnarling in a devilish manner during the song’s over nine minutes of Epic Black Metal, putting a majestic ending to one of the best comebacks in the history of metal.

In summary, Northern Chaos Gods, available in different formats from the Nuclear Blast website, is more than just a comeback as already mentioned, but the rebirth of one of the biggest exponents of classic Black Metal even when no one else believed the band could get back on track after such turbulent period in their career. Well, they’re not called Immortal in vain, and after such pulverizing album we can rest assured Demonaz and Horgh will keep the flame of Norwegian Black Metal burning bright wherever they go. Because in the end we’re talking about the true “Northern Chaos Gods of Black Metal”, and they’ll keep riding into the battlefield side by side with us, fans of extreme music, until their final and bitterly cold breath.

Best moments of the album: Northern Chaos Gods, Where Mountains Rise and Mighty Ravendark.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Nuclear Blast

Track listing    
1. Northern Chaos Gods 4:25
2. Into Battle Ride 3:50
3. Gates to Blashyrkh 4:38
4. Grim and Dark 5:27
5. Called to Ice 5:06
6. Where Mountains Rise 5:51
7. Blacker of Worlds 3:43
8. Mighty Ravendark 9:14

Band members
Demonaz – vocals, guitars
Horgh – drums

Guest musician
Peter Tägtgren – bass (session)

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Metal Chick of the Month – Elizabeth Schall

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So follow me now, you’re falling behind… Have the will to set free…

It’s time to get really heavy at The Headbanging Moose with a woman that not only kicks some serious ass on guitar, but she manages to channel all her passion for Heavy Metal into her music flawlessly, creating some sick tunes that will definitely put you to bang your head and raise your horns like crazy. Of Chilean descent, here comes the incredible metal shredder Elizabeth Schall, an American singer, songwriter and guitarist mainly known for her work with Winterthrall, Dreaming Dead and The Iron Maidens, among several other bands and projects. If you want to know how badass Elizabeth is, let me tell you that some of her biggest influences in music are Iron Maiden, Slayer and Megadeth. Do I need to say more?

Daughter of Federico and Amanda Renee Schall, Elizabeth had to relocate to Chile after living in California, which despite not being easy for her and her family in the beginning it helped them learn to appreciate what they left behind in the United States, not to mention the enormous benefit for Elizabeth as she became fully bilingual then. In regards to music, our kick-ass guitarist started taking accordion lessons at an early stage of her life, switching to guitar later, saying that if it wasn’t for the accordion lessons maybe she wouldn’t be playing guitar today. Due to her exceptional skills as a guitar player, her commitment to learning the instrument and her passion for Heavy Metal, Elizabeth has become a role model for many young women who want to play guitar and play extreme music.

In regards to her career in metal music, she first came into the scene when she was recruited to join Death Metal band Winterthrall in 2003 as their guitarist and also doing backing vocals, leaving the band two years later. It was in September 2005 that she finally joined The Iron Maidens, right after the departure of guitarist and co-founder Josephine Draven, becoming the female version of Adrian Smith named “Adrianne Smith”. Despite leaving the band one year later, in October 2006, Elizabeth rejoined them in June 2010 in a guest appearance as “Deena Murray”. There’s a full concert of The Iron Maidens with Elizabeth on the guitar on YouTube, recorded on August 25, 2006 at Vinnie’s Bar & Grill in Concord, California, which might not be a high-quality footage but at least you can have a pretty good idea of how awesome she sounds playing all the mighty classics from Iron Maiden.

It was in 2006 when Elizabeth formed the band Manslaughter together with drummer Mike Caffell, recording that same year the EP Through the Eyes of Insanity. Following a brief tour, our raven-haired bombshell and Mike renamed the band to Dreaming Dead, recording the albums Within One in 2009, Midnightmares in 2012, and Funeral Twilight (which will soon be reviewed here at The Headbanging Moose) now in 2017. In all three records she was responsible for vocals and guitar, but in Within One our daredevil musician also recorded bass guitar and wrote all lyrics, proving how talented she is and how destined she was to heavy music. If you want to have a good taste of the havoc Elizabeth and Dreaming Dead are capable of generating, you should take a good listen at potent compositions like Midnightmares (you can check the official video for it at the end of this essay), Overlord and Buried.

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There are several other bands and projects where we can find Elizabeth shredding her axe, most of them related to Death Metal with hints of other extreme (and even not-so-extreme) subgenres of heavy music. Since 2013 she has been part of American Death Metal/Grindcore band Cretin, blasting her vicious riffs and solos in songs such as It from their 2014 album Stranger, and since 2014 she’s also been the guitarist for American Death/Thrash/Groove Metal project Dia de los Muertos.  In addition, you can also enjoy Elizabeth on lead guitar on  the song My Secret Things, from the 2012 album Horny Beast by American Heavy Metal/Deathrock band Lover of Sin; her backing vocals on the Cacophony cover Burn the Ground, from the 2008 album Future Addict, by the Progressive Rock/Metal solo project led by renowned guitarist Marty Friedman; and on piano on the 2012 album Results, by American Death Metal/Grindcore band Murder Construct (a side-project of members from Exhumed and Cattle Decapitation). If playing the guitar, the piano and singing is not enough for you, how about her work as a photographer in the 2013 album The Dead Still Dead Remain (a completely re-recorded version of the 2000 full-length The Dead Shall Dead Remain featuring the return of Leon del Muerte), by American Death Metal band Impaled? That’s how skillful our badass Elizabeth is.

Elizabeth, who by the way used to be married to Charles Elliott, lead singer and guitarist for American Death Metal band Abysmal Dawn, cites Swedish musician Peter Tägtgren (Hipocrisy, Pain) and American guitar hero Jeff Loomis (Arch Enemy, Nevermore) among her main influences, as well as renowned acts like Cryptopsy, Metallica, and the aforementioned Megadeth and Slayer. If you want to take a look at how our stunning guitar player deals with her beloved instrument, you can watch this high quality video of Elizabeth setting up and tuning her guitar, where she reviews tools, changing strings, tuning (from B to E standard), action and intonation, or also this other video where she talks about and demos her favorite Fernandes guitar and the Fernandes Sustainer.

Perhaps the most interesting part of this short but humble tribute to the amazing Elizabeth is the list of her favorite guitar riffs published on Decibel Magazine in July 2012, where she commented on the most impactful and meaningful riffs in her life, the ones that helped shape up her style and enhanced her relationship with her instrument. In the article you’ll be able to see exactly which riffs from specific songs she loves the most, blending metal and non-metal acts on her list. Obviously, as this is a Heavy Metal webzine, we need to highlight the presence of unmatched classics like Megadeth’s Tornado of Souls (by the way, she said she’s crazy about all the riffs in this masterpiece), Emperor’s The Tongue Of Fire, Type O Negative’s Love You To Death, and my favorite of all by far, Iron Maiden’s all-time classic Aces High. However, you’ll also find other interesting riffs from non-metal acts on her list, such as Los Prisioneros’ Estrechez de Corazon (80’s Chilean alternative pop) and Soundgarden’s Jesus Christ Pose. Well, there’s of course one of her own riffs on the list, the one from the chorus of the song Overlord by Dreaming Dead, but that’s more than expected when the musician in question is extremely talented and her music kicks some serious ass.

Elizabeth Schall’s Official Facebook page
Elizabeth Schall’s Official Twitter
Elizabeth Schall’s Official YouTube channel
Elizabeth Schall’s Official ReverbNation
Dreaming Dead’s Official Facebook page
Dreaming Dead’s Official Twitter
Dreaming Dead’s Official ReverbNation

“I like to think I live in a world where my gender has nothing to do with what I am capable of doing. You go onto YouTube and see 13-year old girls shredding out on metal songs.” – Elizabeth Schall