When Norwegian black-metal firebrands Immortal ousted their frontman, Abbath, four years ago and pledged to carry on singing their odes to the icy, imaginary realm of Blashyrkh with only their drummer and lyricist running things, it seemed like a joke. Then they released Northern Chaos Gods last year and the metal world stopped laughing. The record was sharp and fun, and it ranked Number Seven on Rolling Stone’s list of the year’s best metal albums. Now it seems that record has awoken something deep within Abbath’s frosty heart.
He’s packed “Harvest Pyre,” the first song off his upcoming Outstrider solo record, with gloomy, skull-rattling riffs and gurgled, incoherent lyrics about fire and (we hope) agriculture. His band consists of musicians who aren’t well known, but they lock into an Immortal-like groove on the song as though they’ve been playing with Abbath for ages. Guitarist Ole Farstad plays a tasteful blues solo midway through, and bassist Mia Wallace (does she really share a name with the Pulp Fiction character?) and drummer Ukri Suvilehto play with perpetual urgency.
These new accompanists didn’t even flinch about acting in one of Abbath’s infamously ridiculous videos, agreeing to run through a frostbitten landscape with swords, slowly headbanging and generally letting Abbath look like a Gene Simmons acid trip as he sings about what sounds like “wampires.” They’re a match made in Blashyrkh, and the song is just so over-the-top that it’s a fitting reminder that black metal can be fun. It’s exciting to think of how Immortal will try to top it with their next album.