Abbath: The New Black

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One of the most renowned and recognisable bands to have emerged from the Norwegian black metal scene, Immortal were officially put to rest last month when frontman Abbath announced, exclusively to Metal Hammer, his new, self-titled project and first live show in the UK.

Founded 24 years ago by Abbath and former guitarist Demonaz, Immortal had emerged from a three-year hiatus in 2006, and were working on the follow-up to 2009’s All Shall Fall album when splits emerged in the rehearsal studio./o:p

Although it was reported last December that Abbath was legally contesting the band name with Demonaz – who became the band’s lyricist and touring partner after tendonitis forced him to put down his guitar in 1997 – and drummer Horgh, none of the bandmembers have decided to pursue it, having gone their separate ways. From his home in Bergen, Abbath spoke to Hammer about his recent trials and his plans for the future./o:p

“I didn’t want to go solo in the first place,” says the frontman. “I wanted the best for Immortal. I didn’t want it to end this way. First of all, I just wanted my music out, I wanted to record the album – it’s been so many years since All Shall Fall. And both Demonaz and Horgh, they have kids and families now, and it just hit that point where I couldn’t work the way they wanted to work any more. I wanted things on my terms and they wanted things on their terms, and it was very difficult.”

With bandmembers either not turning up for rehearsals or taking extended personal breaks, says Abbath, the process all but ground down to a halt, getting to the point where the situation was becoming untenable.

“I wanted to rehearse at least three times a week, but often it was only once a week and things went so slow. I sat there with all this material, I kept the rehearsal space and recorded the stuff on click track, but it was a very strained atmosphere and the last time we worked together was in early June last year.”/o:p

Asked if the decision to part ways and seek out new bandmembers was inevitable, Abbath explains that the issues had long roots.

“I was forced to do it this way. I wanted Immortal to continue, but not the way it was. The dialogue has not been there and it’s also my mistake. I should have brought up this shit a long time ago, but Immortal, after Demonaz’s problems with his arms, it never became a band after that. Immortal is a very special situation. He hasn’t been in the band, but then I always wanted to do the best for everybody, to have the band spirit, and that’s why when we decided to start Immortal again, we tried to get the spirit back, and bring him on tour, and just share our thing and be a band and have a kick-ass time.

“But it never worked out. The chemistry wasn’t there with the Immortal guys and hadn’t been for a while. I believe in my music and I believe in my expression, but time flies and we grow apart. Maybe in the future we can go back again, I don’t know, but right now I just want to do my thing and just be Abbath and have people around me who support that.”

Abbath’s new bandmembers are God Seed bassist King, with whom both Abbath and Demonaz had played together in their side-project I (and who also had his own legal bandname issues with Gorgoroth), and 23-year-old drummer Baard – and by all accounts the creative juices are back in full flow.

“I’m playing with very skilled, dedicated and ambitious guys,” Abbath enthuses, “who love to rehearse and I have a very good dialogue with them, so we have rehearsed the whole album already. When I sit there, I feel like, OK, we call it Abbath, but it’s like when Ozzy Osbourne first went out, it was a band.”

With the new album due out early next year, the first live date has been planned for London this autumn. How is he approaching it?

“I’m nervous,” he replies, “but at the same time I can’t wait. And we’re already planning which songs to play. This is also before the album, so we’re going to play three or four of the new songs, and do three I songs and some Immortal songs. So it’s going to be a very special event.”

ABBATH PLAYS THE FORUM IN LONDON ON SEPTEMBER 18/o:p

Four classic visual Immortal moments…

CALL OF THE BENNYMOON

The black metal parody to end them all, this version of the Call Of The Wintermoon video (a daft, unintentionally funny clip to begin with) sped up, with the Benny Hill Show theme played over it, has entered legend. Immortal probably regret making this. The internet is glad they did./o:p

GRIM AND FROSTBITTEN KINGDOMS

We can only speculate what this would have looked like if Immortal had had any money in the mid-90s (the video to All Shall Fall, most probably) but this is still ace in its crap-budget iciness. Although we have to say that guest drummer Hellhammer looks really weird in a white shirt with no warpaint.

WITHSTAND THE FALL OF TIME (LIVE)

Pro-shot for the Seventh Date Of Blashyrkh DVD, this live clip from Wacken ’07 shows off a riff-laden classic and gets across all the personality of Immortal (and Abbath in particular) as a live act. There’s synchronised headbanging, tongue-pokes and enough funky facial expressions to rival a Kiss convention./o:p

ALL SHALL FALL

If their early videos were brilliantly crap, this is simply brilliant. Shot epically (and dangerously precariously) on a snowy mountainside with visual effects and proper cameras, the full vision of Blashyrkh is finally realised. Complete with Abbath’s crabwalk and hip wiggles, and a sinister, portentous cameo from Demonaz./o:p