DB HOF NO. 32
The making of Immortal’s “At the Heart of Winter”
In 1995, Norwegian corpsepaint legends Immortal were on top of the world: With Mayhem’s Hellhammer sitting in on drums, vocalist/bassist Abbath and guitarist/lyricist Demonaz were high on the icy grimness of their own Battles in the North and opening for Morbid Angel on the European leg of the Domination tour. A year later, things couldn’t have been worse: Shortly after recording their lightning-paced black metal misfire Blizzard Beasts with new drummer Horgh, Demonaz began suffering from severe tendonitis in his arms. Unable to play for more than half an hour at a time, the guitarist was forced to the sidelines while Abbath traded four strings for six on the band’s subsequent tour.
In November of 1998, still anticipating (or at least hoping for) Demonaz’s full recovery, Abbath and Horgh traveled from their hometown in Bergen to Hypocrisy mastermind Peter Tägtgren’s Abyss Studios in Sweden to record their fifth full-length, At the Heart of Winter. With Horgh on blast beats, Abbath handled the guitar, bass, keyboards and vocals (a true one-man band, he had even played drums on Battles in the North and 1993’s Pure Holocaust) while Demonaz faxed lyrics in from Bergen. A month later, Immortal’s magnum opus was complete—a six-song, 46-minute frost epic that also happened to feature some of the most vicious black metal riffs ever laid to tape (not to mention some of the most ridiculous band photos in the history of ridiculous band photos).
Released in 1999, At the Heart of Winter was instantly hailed as a masterpiece by many—including Decibel contributor and then-Terrorizer editor Nick Terry, who gave the album a 9 out of 10 rating (along with Album of the Month status) and wrote, “If the Norwegians’ reputation was sealed and cemented by 1995’s Battles in the North, then this fifth go-round will plant the full fucking monument on top of that rep.” Which is just one of many reasons that At the Heart of Winter is the latest inductee into our Hall of Fame…
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