When you think black metal, Immortal is definitely one of the names that come to mind. And for a good reason, too! Along with a few other second-wave black metal bands, Immortal popularized the genre and paved the path for countless bands that came after it.
Immortal’s story is as intriguing as their music and videos. Namely, this Norwegian black metal band formed as a merger between two “less successful” projects — Amputation and Old Funeral. Still passionate about this new, raw style of music, the ex-members of the two bands came together to form Immortal in 1991.
Immortal’s Early Days
The two names you’ll definitely recognize are Abbath Doom Occulta and Demonaz Doom Occulta. Needless to say, both have to be some of the greatest aliases in metal, of all time. The band went through a series of drummers over the years, but Abbath and Demonaz were always the heart and soul of Immortal. Abbath played the bass and handled the vocals, while Demonaz provided the recognizable, powerful riffs.
When they first started playing, Immortal’s sound was more akin to death metal. This is largely thanks to the influence of Morbid Angel and Possessed. However, prior to publishing their self-titled EP in 1991, the band picked up on a heavier, more raw sound from Bathory, Celtic Frost, Euronymous, and the likes.
This led to Immortal’s sound transitioning to what was considered classic black metal of the time. Only a year later, the band came out with their debut album — Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticism — which clearly shown the shift to the traditional black metal sound and philosophy. However, the band continued experimenting with their sound and created a unique blend of black metal and German thrash metal.
This distinct mixture first emerged with their most critically acclaimed album — At the Heart of Winter — and became the band’s signature throughout the rest of their works. It also resulted in Immortal becoming one of the most influential black metal bands of all time.
The Turbulent History of Immortal
During the two and a half decade-long music career, Immortal experienced quite a few ups and downs. First, the duo struggled to find a suitable drummer, until Horgh eventually came along in 1996. He was first credited on the Blizzard Beasts album and has remained a staple in the band to date.
All seemed to be going well for these pioneers of the black metal genre, but Demonaz suffered acute tendonitis only a year later. This effectively st, but he remained with the band as the manager and song-writer. Abbath and Horgh are the ones behind At the Heart of Winter, which saw the band rise to fame.
Since then, the band remained relatively stable in the early 2000s. They even signed a contract with a major German label — Nuclear Blast Records. Despite that fact, their sound stayed true to their black metal roots and they’ve added two masterpieces to their discography during that period – Damned in Black and Sons of Northern Darkness.
The Split, the Reunion, and the Departure
In 2003, however, Immortal’s members parted ways, at least for a short while. Each of the members stated that “personal reasons” were behind the split. However, they haven’t given any details past that.
Much to the joy of millions of Immortal fans, Abbath and Demonaz reconciled shortly after. Together with the Armagedda, the original member who played the drums on the first two albums, Gorgoth’s bassist King ov Hell, and Enslaved’s guitarist Ice Dale, they formed a new banned simply called I.
Although not quite Immortal, fans had even more mighty black metal tracks to enjoy. The Between Two Worlds album was well-received. This prompted Horgh, Abbath, and Demonaz to revive Immortal and they began touring once more.
In 2007, however, the band officially reunited and performed under the Immortal banner at a string of metal festivals the same year. Remembering the glory of the early Immortal, Abbath and Horgh decided to bring the band back together for good. With Apollyon on the drums, the band released All Shall Fall in 2009.
The ever-present tension among the members seemed to have deflated. Simultaneously, the constant bickering over legal rights pertaining the Immortal trademark never ceased. This culminated in 2015 when Abbath proclaimed his departure from Immortal and continued his music career forming a new band bearing his name.
Despite Abbath leaving to focus on his own project, Demonaz and Horgh are still keeping Immortal alive. Moreover, the band’s latest album — Northern Chaos Gods is reminiscent of the old Immortal we all know and love.
Due to his tendon injury, the task of coming up with the lyrics fell on Demonaz. Unsurprisingly, the lyrics of this album follow the same motifs — epic battles in the realm of “Blashyrkh.” What’s more, after two decades, Demonaz has finally been able to get back on the guitar and once more express his talent on the record, as well as on stage.
So although Immortal has been through quite a few transformations, they have left behind quite a legacy. Many of the black metal bands that came after Immortal revere these grim Norse black metal titans, and draw inspiration from a wealth of Immortal’s bloody powerful tracks!