It might seem blasphemous to suggest, especially considering the, um, touchiness of black metal obsessives, but Immortal’s split into two separate factions just might have been the best thing to happen to everyone involved. Demonaz dutifully continued the Immortal brand with the much-loved 2018 album Northern Chaos Gods, while his former longtime collaborator, the inimitable Abbath, has sounded positively liberated as a solo artist. 2016’s Abbath was a joyous return to form—admit it: the man’s music, grim and frostbitten as it purports to be, is always joyous when firing on all cylinders—and the eagerly anticipated follow-up turns out to be even better than anticipated.
It helps that what you hear on the wonderfully titled Outstrider is a complete band. New guitarist Ole André Farstad adds tremendous texture and flamboyance in his solos, while bassist Mia Wallace and drummer Ukri Suvilehto provide a robust rhythm section. In the end, though, it all comes down to Mr. Eikemo, and he sounds inspired throughout this record, whether snarling his lead vocals or letting loose riffs that feel half Quorthon, half Winnie Wincent. As throttling as the handful of Norwegian black metal moments sound, this record is all about the primal grooves that Bathory helped pioneer 30-odd years ago (including a rousing cover of “Pace Till Death”) reveling in stomping rhythms and guitar work that evokes more fist pumps than windmills. Abbath has always been a rock ‘n’ roller at heart, and he embraces that side of his persona with so much passion on Outstrider that it’s impossible not to love.
Review taken from the August 2019 issue of Decibel, which is available here.