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Immortal – The Nothern Upir’s Death [Compilation]

immortal – the nothern upir’s death [compilation]


As a young Black Metal fan around the turn of the millennium Immortal was one of my absolute favourite bands. In those pre-Discogs times I spent hours searching for some stuff to add to my collection, through eBay I was able to snatch a copy of the band’s same titled 7” EP and through tape/CDR trading I tried to get as many live recordings as possible. It was at those late 90’s and early 00’s that I heard about some Immortal demos that were called ‘Suffocate The Masses’ and ‘Northern Upins Death’. Unfortunately I was only able to get my hands on some umpteenth generation tape rip on low bit-rate MP3’s of these early recordings.

Yet, while Immortal always sported a very recognizable sound throughout their discography, they never really repeated themselves in terms of musicality and sound (at least up and until ‘At The Heart Of Winter’ (1999), I was in for a surprise hearing these very early recordings. ‘Suffocate The Masses’ (or sometimes simply put as ‘Suffocate’) and ‘Northern Upins Death’ didn’t only turn out to be the very same demo recordings, the most surprising was that the sound on this very early stage of the band had very little to do with the iconic albums that Immortal would be known for not too much later.

Like many of the Norwegian bands around the late 80’s and early 90’s Immortal was a through and through Death Metal act. Knowing that Immortal had its roots going all the way back to bands like Old Funeral and Amputation, it might be not much of a surprise, yet for my young teenage ears it was quite a revelation. Now we are over three decades since these very early recordings were canned and the previously tape-only label Darkness Shall Rise Records unearthed these tracks and put them together on all three most popular sound carriers for us to enjoy once more…

Ah well… enjoy… Like with the various anthologies of Old Funeral and Amputation that were released throughout the last twenty or so years, it is really much more about the historical significance than about a thoroughly enjoyable musical affair. But, let’s take a deep dive into the world of the embryonical stage of one Norway’s Black Metal superstars.

First up on this compilation LP (or cassette/CD) is the infamous demo which has been given so many names but is actually meant as an untitled demo. The title of ‘Northern Upins Death’ was given to it by tape traders because of the misread name of the drawing (done by Dead of Morbid/Mayhem fame) reads like it. The actual title of the drawing is ‘The Northern Upir’s Death’ and refers to the Upir creature, which is some sort of vampire-like being from the area that is currently known as Ukraine. It musically shows Immortal in their most crude and unmatured form, their brand of Death Metal cannot be considered original or anything really memorable – especially not compared to countrymates like Mortem (later to turn into Arcturus), Cadaver or Darkthrone (before turning into a Black Metal band as well). Still, the tracks are highly enjoyable and at least shows that Abbath (here just credited as Olve Eikemo) has a pretty impressive death grunt as well. It also comes with the 39-second outro that has been heavily debated, since it has remained unclear whether this was also present on the original demo tape or added later by tape traders or bootleggers; another myth dispelled.

Up next is the untitled Immortal 7” EP that was originally released through Listenable Records in 1991. Realising that the first demo tape was recorded in the summer of 1991 and these three tracks were released only a few months after the musical shift is nothing short of sensational. Immortal almost seemed to have actually turned into a Black Metal band overnight, going from raw but decent Death Metal to really some of the best Black Metal that Norway ever had to offer. I always felt that the 7” EP recordings had a really special atmosphere, compared to the version that appeared on the band’s debut album in 1992 these songs were a tad more raw and a really warm ambiance. Warm, yes. A word that couldn’t be more contradictory to the band’s wintery and snowy themes, but it certainly gave these tracks a thoroughly recognizable character that I have grown to love even more over all those years. And while I respect all the great work Patrick W. Engel usually does with his remastering, to me personally the music was just perfect as it was – even while he did his job just with his well known care and love for the original recordings.

Last up is a two-track rehearsal from 1992 offering two very raw versions of ‘Blacker Than Darkness’ and ‘Unholy Forces Of Evil’, that both also appeared on the 1992-debut album. While it is nice to hear these rough versions of both songs for once, they hardly have any added value, at least from a listener’s perspective.

All in all I think ‘The Northern Upir’s Death’ is a nicely put together retrospective of the pre-album phase of Immortal, that without a glimmer of a doubt was one of the flagbearers of the infamous Norwegian Black Metal scene. The historical value of these recordings for sure are priceless, the musical value is at least debatable. The two tracks and intro of the 7” EP remain the most interesting on this compilation and since this oddity has been getting even harder to get, I would say that ‘The Northern Upir’s Death’ is worth the score alone just for these really near-perfect tracks of the purest and most compelling and memorable Norwegian Black Metal ever written.