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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

I

Between Two Worlds

Review by Mike Korn

There are certain bands that are grand masters of "the riff.” Black Sabbath automatically comes to mind and I would also include Celtic Frost in that select group. Right now, the best riff masters are arguably the Norwegian ice demons Immortal, back in action after a 3-year layoff. This band has the uncanny ability to paint towering images with sound alone. I would immediately refer the reader to their classic albums At the Heart of Winter and Sons of Northern Darkness for proof.

The clumsily titled I (boy, am "I" going to have trouble with that!) picks up the Immortal tradition and adds a little something new to it. What an impressive line-up this group boasts. The guiding force is surely Immortal's main man Abbath, the wizard behind most of Immortal's best material. Former Immortal drummer Armagedda returns to the fold and delivers a thunderous attack here. Second guitarist Ice Dale is none other than Arve Isdal of renowned Norwegian band Enslaved and the bassist T.C. King is better known as King Ov Hell from Gorgoroth. It would be impossible to put together a better Norwegian metal band than this.

Between Two Worlds lives up to the promise of the line-up. It's chock full of those immensely majestic power riffs that Immortal specialized in and indeed, the disc could have passed for a new Immortal offering. But to this solid base, the band adds a more "rock and roll" and less "black metal" feeling. Ice Dale's solos are far more bluesy and organic than anything Immortal did. The music amazingly conjures up images of ancient warriors and vast landscapes yet it retains a more relaxed, less "frozen" character than Immortal. This is where I succeeds in reaching a new audience. If you were ever hesitant to check out Immortal because of their "black metal" connections, Between Two Worlds is the perfect place to see what true architects of "the riff" can do. This is one of 2006's very best efforts.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Storm I Ride
Like an eagle flying above a mountain range, this tune soars above the world below. This is an amazing track, bursting with energy and ringing, crystal clear riffs. The album's highlight, this is as bracing as a dip in a pool of icy spring water.
Warriors
The pace is slower and more somber here, but the band once again shows its talent in coming up with fantastic riffs and epic song structures. A cry to the pagan gods of old, I can envision a Viking priest hailing Odin while this is playing. The rolling riff on the chorus is simply awesome.
Between Two Worlds
This track has a very melancholy feel to it but continues the band's larger-than-life songcraft. Ice Dale's soloing is markedly more rootsy and bluesy than what we heard with Immortal and towards the end of the song, Abbath's troll-like vocals become more plaintive, reminding me a bit of Quorthon during Bathory's Viking phase.
Battalions
Here's another fast belter, with drummer Armagedda showing his considerable time away from the kit hasn't affected his skills any. More excellent soloing arises here but the ending is pretty abrupt.
Mountains
Befitting its title, this is a huge, expansive song with a majestic, driving vibe and killer mid-tempo sections. This really does paint a picture inside the listener's head. I'm reminded of Farewell to Kings era Rush and also Manowar, not so much in terms of the actual music but in the ability to create a sweeping sonic landscape.
Days of North Winds
The most straightfoward cut on the disc, this really comes the closest to the "Immortal meets Motorhead" sound.
Far Beyond The Quiet
This track is dedicated to Quorthon and fittingly, it is the most Bathory-like number. Abbath's vocals really sound much like Quorthon in his Viking phase. Though the tune is heavy and riff-based, there is an overwhelming sadness to it. You can tell it's a lament even without the lyrics. The album's most bluesy guitar solo is unleashed in this one.
Cursed We Are
A great CD wraps up with this fierce and thrashing tune, pure adrenaline and full of slashing rhythms. It would make a terrific live number.
 
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