From the Past Comes the Storms: Immortal – Pure Holocaust

Posted: February 2, 2015 in From the Past Comes the Storms, Reviews
Tags: , , , , ,

1993 saw Immortal release ‘Pure Holocaust’, one of black metal’s most potent and iconic albums.  From the grim black and white cover featuring the band in full ‘evil’ gear to the frostbitten song titles and the icy blast of the actual material, ‘Pure Holocaust’ is a work of pure, unadulterated black metal majesty. It feels odd going back to one of the genre’s hallmarks when said band is in the midst of an ugly battle over the rights to the name. I must do a Gorgoroth rediscovering actually, come to mention it. But, does ‘Pure Holocaust’ still hold up after almost 22 years?

The simple answer is yes. Immortal haven’t released a bad album period; each one has been dedicated to perfecting black metal, from the rasping croak of Abbath to the tremolo-heavy waves of frozen guitar. Immortal are a band that it is easy to laugh at. Their album pictures are generally laughable, the band corpsepainted to the max and pulling all sorts of horrible faces. But in 1993, this shit was actually scary! The album is swathed in the buzzing chords made popular by their contemporaries in Mayhem and Burzum, but is rendered instantly recognisable by Abbath’s raw, unholy rasping vocals. He doesn’t scream like a tortured banshee, nor growl like some demon; he just vocalises like some possessed frog.

‘Pure Holocaust’ is nothing short of a raging wind of black metal. It is relentless in its assault, atonal power chords crashing repeatedly against some pretty solid, if occasionally sloppy blastbeating. Demonaz’s tremolo melodies are surprisingly accessible for a genre known for its ‘kvltness’, and each song is memorable in its own right. I sometimes have a problem telling tracks apart on some releases from this period in black metal’s history, but not with Immortal. They are catchy, and helped by a top notch production. It’s a surprise to find an early 90s black metal album that is so clear and concise, and doesn’t sound like a wasp stuck in a jam jar. A lack of bass reduces the bite of the album, but strangely increases the effectiveness of the frostbitten tales of frozen kingdoms. Snow and ice rarely has a deep sound, and the material is a personification of winter eternal; bleak, cold and lonely.

‘Pure Immortal’ takes the expression of a feeling through music to a new level. In this case, the frozen bleakness of winter comes straight through every icy riff and incantation to chill the bones. Perfect for that wintry walk in the woods, or the endless blizzards that choke the North, Immortal’s legacy will live on through this album alone. Essential black metal.

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