There is no way to separate a man from his previous work. In the case of Demonaz, former guitarist and principle song writer for black metal legends Immortal, truer words have never been spoken. With the release of his first official solo album, "March Of The Norse," he looks to continue on his path of success without treading in all-to-familiar waters. But is it possible to take the man out of Immortal, or years of Immortal out of the man?
Opening with the soothing acoustic guitar track, "Northern Hymn," the album immediately shows off a melodic sensibility. It clears the way for "All Blackened Sky," a track that is as crisp as it is invigorating. The guitars thrash away while a consistent drum patterns builds behind. As the vocals enter, it is difficult to describe their delivery, hovering between clean and raspy tones. The bridge riffs are energetic and thrash worthy, leading to a dynamic bass line in the breakdown. The guitar solo displays that melodic side before descending back to head banging fare.
The heavy, down tempo chugging that opens the title track, "March Of The Norse" will ignite your fire, and start your hair (or lack thereof) swinging. The vocals will be the polarizing element of the song, depending on your reaction to them. They lack the finesse of purely clean singing, but lack the grit of a screaming style. They fall somewhere in that gray area, which may lead to you ignoring them in favor of the musicianship. The precision with which each note is played is astounding, from the grinding bridge sections to the driving outro. That same familiar formula dominates "A Son Of The Sword," which could be perceived as a second part to the previous track. The tempo and tone are very similar, with a healthy dose of chanting vocal for good measure. A brisk solo makes this track stand apart, though, with an oddly catchy outro section capping it off.
The gallop of "Where Gods Once Rode" keeps things moving at a fast pace, Norse chants occupying the background. The vocals do possess a little more grit this time around, giving more punch to the more melodic guitar chords. The deft drumming is a constant, with fills and rolls masterfully completed. The power of a well placed acoustic portion can be felt here, with deep, layered chants taking the lead. It only strengthens the darting solo work that follows. "Under The Great Fires" takes things to a new level, adding in a heavier element. The drums are harder and more punishing, with flurries of double kicks accompanying the snare and cymbals. The guitars pour forth, chugging away through drop tuned chord after chord. This is the band at its best, layered instruments creating an unstoppable assault of clean and distorted. Clean, blitzing solos break down into a soft, frail acoustic outro.
The momentum gained is immediately thrust into "Over The Mountains." The most complete track, lyrically speaking, it sees a well delivered story of fire and flame unfold. Everything falls into place, with the vocals only growing in strength as the seconds tick by. The darting guitar riffs pull you into the story, taking time to unleash a clean, melodic solo that will stick with you for days. The short interlude, "Ode To Battle," is the perfect set up for the albums closing track, "Legends Of Fire And Ice." You won't find anything here that you haven't already heard on the album, but the conclusion is a worthy one. Each pounding drum takes you one step closer to the end, distorted guitar chords ringing out over it all. And then, suddenly, distortion fades to silence.
There isn't a single piece of this album that could be called "bad". Demonaz has done this time what he has always done in the past. He has written a crafted an album of metal riffs and lyrics that few others could do over and over. However, the lack of variation on this disc does a disservice to the individual tracks, running them together, more often than not, into a long thread of reused riffs. There are bright spots, and they do more than enough to redeem the album on the whole. But "March Of The Norse" is more ice than fire.
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