Immortal – Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticism (1992)
So we’ve been on a bit of a formative black/death spree lately; a throwaway remark can set off weird stuff like that. Like Darkthrone in the last review, Immortal wasn’t quite done purging their obvious death metal roots on their debut. If we’re going to bring up big obvious antecedents like Bathory, it becomes reasonable to suggest Immortal was more interested in that band’s epic “Viking” albums than their earlier raw ones. Entire genres of writing could be spawned from the idea that different people take different ideas from the same sources, and while I don’t think we’ll be doing that today, I’d recommend you take Immortal’s musical ancestors into mind when listening to Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticum if you are in any way familiar with them.
In general, this album ends up combining elaborate compositions with fairly rudimentary (even sloppy) instrumental technique; the latter would improve significantly over Immortal’s next few albums, but songs would become brief until 1999 or so, with the release of At The Heart of Winter. It’s hard to describe the effect with overusing words synonymous with “transition”, but that’s a small price to pay for accurately describing this. The songs here are often quite melodic and even consonant at times, but the bassy mixing occasionally makes me want to throw this in with formative melodeath like At the Gates or Sentenced. However, Immortal rather frequently drops this in favor of dissonant, chaotic material like the majority of “Unholy Forces of Evil”; a technique possibly borrowed from the common musical ancestry of the Norwegian scene. I’m not going to go out and say the band hadn’t forged their own identity, as even Pure Holocaust in 1993 was a major paradigm shift, and the aforementioned At The Heart of Winter often resembles a more disciplined and refined variant on the ideas of this debut.
Because of this, early Immortal ends up with some odd strengths and weaknesses compared to their contemporaries. The push for good arrangements is perhaps not so odd, since even the rawest, filthiest, and most shocking of Immortal’s contemporaries emphasized their song structures. The songwriting here is strangely orderly, though, assisted by the consistent aesthetic and frequently midpaced tempoes. The flaws in instrumental technique actually come in handy for differentiating things – seemingly awkward transitions and messy, pitchy guitar solos that wouldn’t fit the songs if performed with more skill. To my understanding, that’s one of the things that draws people to black metal, although it occasionally results in a swarm of shoddy imitators. That Immortal managed to play such a large role in influencing others even before they had really found themselves is a sign of aptitude on their part.
Highlights: “The Call of the Wintermoon”, “Cryptic Winterstorms”, “A Perfect Vision of The Rising Northland”