Immortal are one of several Norwegian black metal bands with some involvement in the 1993 Oslo incidents surrounding the murder of Mayhem's Euronymous by Varg Vikernes a.k.a. Count Grishnackh of Burzum. Immortal was formed by the 'demon brothers' Abbath Doom Occulta (bass, vocals) and Demonaz (guitar), recruiting Jørn (guitar) and Armagedda (drums). Earlier the band went under the name "Amputation". The concept of the band was based upon Blashyrkh, the name of the sacred places Demonaz and Abbath found when walking in the wilderness surrounding their homes. Blashyrkh is a fictional realm of demons, grim nature and northern blizzards. Musically and visually inspiration sources were bands such as: Bathory, Celtic Frost and Venom (where have we heard these names before...?).
Their first demo Suffocate was released early 1991 and later that year followed up by their second effort, The Northern Upins Death. A short time after this release Jørn got kicked out. Later the band was approached by the French label Listenable Records as they were impressed by their latest demo. They got the opportunity to do a 7" single and started to create songs like "Unholy Forces of Evil" and "Cold Winds of Funeral Frost", which later would appear on their debut album as the song "Cold Winds of Funeral Dust". The 7" was recorded and released during the winter 1991-1992.
In 1991 they secured a deal with the French label Osmose Records. They signed a two record deal with them and headed for Grieghallen Studios in Bergen to record their first full length. Originally it was going to be called Battles In The North but they changed it to Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticism as that fitted the music better. Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticism is a very atmospheric album with several acoustic guitar parts. You can definitely hear the Bathory influence. All in all Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticism made a foundation for Immortal. Later this year Armagedda was asked to leave. He was a skillful drummer, but he didn't follow them mentally. His replacement was Kolgrim. He was a big failure as a drummer in the band and was fired after 6 months due to laziness.
The 1993 follow up, Pure Holocaust, contained what the band irritatingly called 'holocaust' metal - extremely fast black metal with plenty of blast beats and few slow or atmospheric parts. As they didn't have any drummer at the time Abbath did the skin beating himself on the album. During the mixing a new drummer, Erik came in to the band. He participated on the cover photo but he didn't play on the album. After the release Immortal got a lot of attention for their controversial choice of title and the fact that they claimed to play 'holocaust metal' and not black metal. The velocity has been maintained on succeeding albums, although the band's unswerving commitment to badger-like corpse paint has raised a few sniggers in the metal press here and there.
In 1994 new material was written and again Immortal went for Grieghallen Studios and again Abbath had to take care of the drums. Their former drummer, Erik was fired one month earlier because Abbath and Demonaz wanted to move on, and Erik didn't have the right mentality or skills in order to follow them. Anyway, the album was recorded with Abbath behind the drum kit. The title was Battles In The North. Their popularity grew and grew and after the release of Battles In The North they went on their first big European tour as a special guest with Morbid Angel. Hellhammer from Mayhem agreed join as a session drummer for Immortal on this tour. He also played on Masters Of Nebulah Frost, the first official video of Immortal. The two songs on the video were 'Grim And Frostbitten Kingdoms' and 'Blashyrkh (Mighty Ravendark)'. The latter was actually recorded in the free nature on one of the seven mountains surrounding Bergen. It's not a very professional video, but it's very cool. For six years Immortal had problems finding a suitable drummer, but at spring time in 1996 Horgh took contact with Abbath and Demonaz. Horgh was known to be a talented drummer, so they arranged a meeting with him. After seeing Horgh in action, both Abbath and Demonaz knew he was the right drummer for Immortal. It took them six years to find him. Three months later Immortal entered Sigma Studios to record the next full length album.
In February of 1997 Blizzard Beasts was released. It turned out to be a quite different album compared to the previous ones. Demonaz had to retire from the band in 1997 with acute tendonitis in both arms; an occupational hazard, you might imagine if you play music at Mach 3...
In 1998 they were back in business, with Ares from Aeternus as session bass player. They finally went touring again and Demonaz did all the management, while the band could focus on the artistic side of Immortal. Ares was asked to become a full time member of Immortal, but chose to concentrate on his main band Aeternus. In November their new album At The Heart Of Winter was recorded, this time in Peter Tägtgren's Abyss Studios. Actually Peter contacted Osmose and said he really wanted to produce Immortal's next album and that was OK with both Immortal and Osmose. In addition to this the song 'To Walk The Infernal Fields' was recorded for a Darkthrone tribute album on Moonfog. At The Heart Of Winter is released in March and it marks the start of a new era for Immortal. Many things have changed: The music to a certain point, the way the music is created, new logo and this time they used fantasy art on the front cover instead of the traditional band photo. The cover art won Best Cover in many metal magazines' end-of-year polls for its superbly over the top depiction of a ghostly forest castle. But in all these changes they still have stayed faithful to their roots. Before they went touring Iscariah came in filling the vacant bass spot. Immortal remained productive and new songs were already written in October when they again went to Abyss Studios to start the recording of their next opus, entitled Damned In Black. It is a more brutal album than the previous and they have this time taken their style to an even higher level than their predecessors. This was Immortal's last album on their contract with Osmose. After a 9-year cooperation, the band signed a worldwide one album record deal with Nuclear Blast. Immortal also celebrated their 10th anniversary this year. A special box with a live CD, photos never published before and many other rare things were supposed to be released, but I haven't seen it yet, so it's most probably canceled.
Their debut album on Nuclear Blast, Sons Of Northern Darkness was released in February 2002 and the anticipation was enormous. However I don't think Immortal let anybody down, because this album is a killer and Nuclear Blast expect to sell 150.000 copies worldwide. That's a reasonable goal when you consider that Damned In Black sold over 100.000 copies on Osmose. Few months after the release, Iscariah decides to leave the band. His replacement was a Swede named Saroth, he also plays live for Peter Tägtgren's PAIN together with Horgh. In 2003 they were nominated for the 'Spellemannsprisen' (Norwegian Grammy). They lost the award to Satyricon for their "Volcano" album.
Update: As of July 2003 the band has ceased to exist :-(