Immortal – Pure Holocaust (1993)
Pure Holocaust is Immortal adjusting their overall approach towards the stereotypical black metal aesthetic, even in spite of such owing much of its existence to efforts like the band’s debut. It’s a more focused album because of this, not given to the same sense of development and journey and instead favoring a violent storm of extreme metal technique. Since Immortal has changed up their style on numerous occasions, I’m hesitant to say they begin to sound like themselves on this album. If you compare this to contemporary death metal and the more violent varieties of black metal, though, it fits pretty well.
Given that even within the Norwegian black metal scene there were plenty of variants, Pure Holocaust sticks to its guns and is a consistently trebly blastfest, although it’s still more ambitious and varied than some bands that would take that approach to its limit, like Marduk. There is little in the way of tempo dissonance here – guitar riffs and phrases keep up with the drums instead of deliberately lagging behind, like contemporary Mayhem. It’s also an especially blurry album due to the way the guitars are recorded and performed – constant tremelo and phasing create an interesting texture; surprisingly this does little to render the content of the guitars difficult to understand. If there’s anything at all that interferes with intelligibility (and I’m not sure there particularly is), it’s probably how evenly all the elements of Pure Holocaust are leveled – I can even hear a hint of the basslines if I focus my hearing.
While the overall approach is somewhat more technically proficient than before, this album shares some of the loose feeling of its predecessor. This might be more of a problem than it was on the first album since the material is more difficult to perform. On the other hand, any imperfections here are probably more stylistically appropriate and effective than they were on Diablolical Fullmoon Mysticum, since the denser sound and increased velocities make for an overall more chaotic experience. Regardless of how you might feel about this issue, it also makes for a reasonable comparison to popular black metal works these days, which tend towards more precise musicianship for reasons shaped like digital audio workstations and generally better studio quality. Pure Holocaust still displays significant advances over its successor’s musicianship, but the songwriting has arguably been simplified from previous band efforts – nothing that matches the structural complexity of something like “A Perfect Vision of the Rising Northland”. The emphasis is more on setting a consistent atmosphere, and since the quality of the two albums is about the same, I guess which one strikes closer to your heart is more a matter of personal taste.
Highlights: “The Sun No Longer Rises”, “Storming Through Red Clouds and Holocaustwinds”, “As The Eternity Opens”