1. The Storm I Ride 2. Warriors 3. Between Two Worlds 4. Battalions 5. Mountains 6. Days of North Winds 7. Far Beyond the Quiet 8. Cursed We Are
Hot on the heels of Emperor’s reunion and the success of Ihsahn’s solo work come Immortal’s own revival and the debut album from super-group I. The timing and nature of the two bands’ comebacks is suspiciously similar, but when the results are so rewarding, how could one complain. Of all the revived entities and new projects undertaken, I is perhaps the most intrepid. Whereas others are continuing themes already established and accepted by their fanbase, I have decided to roll the dice, after a fashion, and are trying on some new styles. The most shocking of these is appearing without corpsepaint. As silly a gimmick as it is, Abbath and his corpsepaint have always been considered inseparable and the prospect of him having actually human pigments to his skin (much less fronting a band self-admittedly inspired by Kiss) is tantamount to heresy for some.
Yet, with a veteran line-up and the unique lyrics of Demonaz, I have managed to have avoid nearly every stigma associated with both the black and heavy metal genres and enamor fans across a wide spectrum.
And as much as I have been promoted as a genre-fusing experiment (and as true as that sometimes is), the inimitable, frostbitten riff style of Immortal is still what drives most of these songs. A few, such as the single ‘The Storm I Ride’, are more stadium rock than anything else, but the balance of ‘Between Two Worlds’ leans significantly towards actual black metal (surprise) quite similar to latter-day Immortal.
The most potent distinguishing factors between the two projects, aside from their name and the image, are the ornamentations. Abbath will always be a black metal musician first and foremost (and indeed it is what he is best suited to), but he has nevertheless altered his course as an artist quite noticeably for I. It would be more than generous to call his vocal style here ‘singing’, but his strange, half-spoken buzz is certainly more variable on ‘Between Two Worlds’ than anywhere else. To be sure, it takes some getting used to, and at times one cannot help but wonder how good I might have been with a more capable singer, such as during the title track where Abbath’s most adventurous and intolerable vocal ‘melodies’ can be found. But, at the same time, it seems inappropriate to put anyone else’s voice over these massive, iceberg riffs.
The other, more subtle change in style is the impact of ‘Ice Dale’ as a lead guitarist. The solos on ‘Between Two Worlds’ are few, and not quite what one would consider heart-stopping, momentous displays of virtuosity, but, ‘Ice Dale’s primary effort, Enslaved (‘Ice Dale’ is Isdal is Arve Isdal) is not a group for overt technical proficiency. ‘Ice Dale’ has always preferred a more patient, atmospheric approach, and his leads and solos, clearly distinguished from the harsh chords of Abbath, are a strong compliment to I’s core style.
Even though the music of ‘Between Two Worlds’ is in itself rather simple, it represents movements of far greater significance: the return of black metal’s legendary innovators to the fore (Immortal, here, and also Emperor by creative association), their excursion into new fields, and the open armed greeting from their audience, both old and new. This bodes very well, it seems, for the collective future of the black metal scene and all those associated with it. Yet, while ‘Between Two Worlds’ certainly has much to gain from this rejuvenated glow, it sometimes falls a little short on its own.
Which is understandable, really. Abbath has not been making music professionally for some time, I is a completely new collaboration in both line-up and genre, so ‘Between Two Worlds’ is therefore forgiven its few moments that drag. This is no fault of the members, either—simply a growing pain of the band, so to speak. All performers involved are on their own at the peak of their respective crafts, demonstrating an overarching maturity in performance, even in the face of heavy metal’s inherent excess, that has come to define the Norwegian spirit.
And can we really be faulted for daydreaming during those lagging moments about what could be for Immortal rather than what already is for I? If ‘Between Two Worlds’ were not so constant a reminiscence of Immortal’s own discography, nostalgic lapses in attention would need be more closely curtailed. As it is, the question now becomes not whether I is any good—they most certainly are—but rather: will I steal Immortal’s thunder? Until this question is answered, I (personally) will reserve final judgment on ‘Between Two Worlds’. In the meantime, I is fun, lively (and maybe even a little grim, now and then), and an unmistakable indicator that this frostbitten ice titan of Norway is finally stirring from his slumber.
Maximum Metal Rating Legend - Click for Full Details