Probably one of my most favorite interviews to do was getting to speak with Abbath regarding the Immortal reunion and his project aptly titled 'I'. I've decided to bring it here for your reading enjoyment!
Immortal: Return of the Blizzard Beasts By: Ryk Weston Seated in front of a phone, Abbath sits for hours performing interviews with hungry metal journalists eager to hear the mighty one speak about the reformation of one of black metal’s most beloved bands, Immortal, who had disbanded in 2003 after a 13 year run. Abbath is eager to speak about the newest release from I, a project created shortly after the Immortal breakup and is now being released by Nuclear Blast Records. The album, Between Two Worlds, is a metal juggernaut if there ever was one. Featuring some of the meatiest riffs this side of Blashyrkh, one wonders where such inspiration came from after the exhaustion of Immortal’s breakup. “A couple of sonsg were ideas”, says Abbath with his ever so low toned voice. “Some riffs and ideas that were meant for Immortal, but most of the album as written afterwards. I put them all on ice to just clear my mind and relax, and after awhile I just wanted to do some music again. So I found some ideas and riffs that I thought was meant for Immortal but I thought them better to use for this project. I think you can hear on the new album that we created something kind of special. I’m not going to say “something new”. The only important thing to me is that the songs are good.”
Listening to Between Two Worlds will automatically dissolve the notion that I is just another black metal project as mixtures of thrash and melodic metal are layered throughout each track. Even with Immortal, Abbath is clear to point out the musical direction he has always tried to convey. “I don’t think we’re a black metal band anyway. Of course, I guess we started out as a black metal band in the beginning, but to tell you the truth, we never thought of ourselves as a black metal band. Because... what’s black metal? Is Dimuu Borgir black metal? Or Venom? Mercyful Fate? Is Celtic Frost black metal? These are pretty different bands. So what is black metal these days anyways?”
The reformation of Immortal has undoubtedly been the biggest news in the metal scene this year. With two special appearances in New York and Los Angeles for 2007, and also the infamous Wacken in Germany, the question remains if we will see a new studio album from Immortal in the future. “Not for now.”, says Abbath. “When we put Immortal on ice in 2003, the magic was gone. I didn’t feel like continuing. The chemistry was gone. I just felt I needed a break. We had a Norwegian tour booked, and I just said, “No, we can’t do it”. And in 2003 I would have never said that we would play live in 2007. There will always be people who claim that we do this for the money or that we never broke up and are faking a reunion. But that’s not the thing. The thing is that we never broke the band up. We just said that we put the band on ice because we needed a break. And after 3 years, we found the chemistry again.”
Naturally, when word got out that Immortal was reformed, promoters from every part of the globe jumped on the chance to book Immortal. Says Abbath, “I think my manager has turned down 200 offers or something. So many offers. People want us to come to Australia, Mexico, South America, Israel, Japan. For now we are going to do some shows in Europe, then New York and Los Angeles because the times we’ve been in the States we never did much touring. It seems like we have a lot of fans there. And IF we continue, there will be more shows. But for now, I can not say.”
The 2003 split was anything but easy for the Norwegian trio. Their last opus, Sons of Northern Darkness, was a critically acclaimed album which garnered them a Grammy Nomination in Norway for Best Rock Album. “It was tough”, says Abbath. “But the breakup had to happen. I mean, we never got rich by being in Immortal anyway. I guess a lot of other people got rich, but we didn’t. So if we had been making money, we should have never quit the band, should we? I mean, it was tough. I don’t do anything half-hearted. I do it 100% or I don’t do it at all. That’s why I don’t want to do touring with I right now because I can’t commit to doing shows when I’m thinking Immortal in my head.”
One of the most noticeable differences found in Immortal which separates them from other black metal bands is the loss of Satanic references in their lyrics. Whereas most of the more popular black metal acts like Marduk, Enthroned, and Darkthrone were praising Satan, Immortal chose to write about...well, Blashyrkh, an imaginative land of ice and frost ruled by a gigantic raven God named “Mighty Ravendark”. Remarks Abbath, “Well, yeah. Most people think that we were Satan worshippers with sacrifices and everything. I mean, we never set out to be Satanists. We’re a metal band. Sure, we love KISS and we love Judas Priest, but we love good metal. Immortal never set out to be Satan worshippers. All the other bands were standing in the forest looking down in the ground, and we were standing in the snow looking up at the sky.”
True to their word, Immortal is setting up to reclaim their ground in the world of black metal. Fans who are unable to make the trek to witness the Norwegian metal gods perform live can relax as the band makes plans to release a home DVD of their performance in Wacken next year. “Yeah, we’re recording Wacken. We’re going to do a Hell of a show there with lots of pyro and stuff. We’re going to record some other festivals too. It’s too early to say anything about it now, but that’s the plan. To do a real live DVD. If we will do it, we will do it right. Most music DVD’s, when you buy them they’re like 90 minutes long and no extras. When you pay for a DVD, you should get a lot of stuff. Dimmu Borgir did a great DVD some years ago.”