It’s been a painfully long wait, but Norway’s grimmest and darkest have finally emerged from Blashyrkh with their newest full-length release.

What this is not is All Shall Fall part two.  Not even a little.  Demonaz clearly decided to take Immortal’s sound more in line with their earlier records.  Northern Chaos Gods is lightening fast from beginning to end and showcases some of Horgh’s quickest and most intense drumming to date. There is a lot to like here and this release is far superior to Demonaz’s solo record in terms of “sounding like” Immortal. It is an enjoyable record and one that will please many, however, at the same time, I’m still left wondering what this record could have been with the addition of another guitarist and songwriter.

The title track “Northern Chaos Gods” will bring listeners back to the early days of the band and that particular cut is extremely well crafted and demonstrably makes a clear statement to the metal world. I wish, however, that the rest of the record had the same level of complexity and texture as the opening track. Certainly, there are many winners on this record, for example, the devastating “Blacker of Worlds,” and the nostalgic “Gates to Blashyrkh,” but, problematically, there are many songs that are simply too dependent on one major riff. While Demonaz gives listeners some wonderful riffs throughout the record, there is little progression in the songs, little lead work and no real surprises in many of the tracks to keep the listener interested for an extended period of time. Sadly, the most disappointing of these tracks is the 9:14 “Mighty Ravendark” which just slogs along and feels overly bloated by a good 5 minutes.

Demonaz’s voice sounds much improved and more prominent in the mix compared to his last solo record. If anything, he sounds similar to Abbath, but lacks the same level of “bite” that his predecessor brings to the composition. And while many might shy away from making the comparisons between this Immortal record and the Abbath release, it is clear that Abbath simply has a voice that cannot be replaced and cannot be replicated. Just like Abbath himself, his vocal, guitar and songwriting are entirely unique.

What could have moved Northern Chaos Gods from a mid level offering to an outstanding record is some needed complexity and layering in both the songwriting and the lead work. I can’t help but think that if Immortal had brought in someone like Ice Dale to craft some leads and textures, the finished product would feel less monotonous than it does at times. And while Horgh’s drumming sounds great, there isn’t much risk taking and it seems that given his talent, there could have been some more originality in the percussion department.

Overall, I certainly like Northern Chaos Gods and it’s definitely a worthy buy, especially if you like your black metal cold, dark and fast, however, I can’t help but also think what could have been.

Northern Chaos Gods releases July 13 on Nuclear Blast Records and can be purchased here.