"Highly anticipated" does not do justice to the eagerness with which fans have waited for IMMORTAL's first album since 2002's "Sons of Northern Darkness". Much like EMPEROR, we are talking about band that inspires rabid devotion from both fans and critics because of a one-of-a-kind status in black metal. As such, there will be more than a few fans and critics that view the worth of "All Shall Fall" through nostalgia-tinted glasses.
The short of it is that "All Shall Fall" is a pretty good IMMORTAL album, but one that does not reach the bar set by "Sons of Northern Darkness". Overall, the album stays true to the classic IMMORTAL style, that distinctive blend of frost bitten black metal with trad-metal tendencies in the song structures. That unique method of creatively filling space with generally unique riffs and subtle accents that conjures visions of a giant guitar wielded by an enormous snow beast in the middle of a blizzard is, in a general sense, still heard "All Shall Fall". The ascending riffs on the title track and the driving, yet tuneful, riff of "The Rise of Darkness" are prime examples. Both also happen to be catchy and destined to be considered classics. With the exception of skull-cracking speedster "Hordes of War" and album-closing ice-march "Unearthly Kingdom", the album is mostly mid-paced and inclusive of the occasional atmospheric effect, such as the light/acoustic intro to "Norden on Fire", which ultimately transforms into an almost folky cadence, although not as folky as the Celtic twist during "Arctic Swarm". Rounding out the album is another prototypical tune in "Mount North", one that features an effectively simplistic croak chorus that will be immediately recognizable to even those only marginally familiar with the work of IMMORTAL.
So what's not to like? "All Shall Fall" would seem to have everything a fan would want, right? Well, kind of. No blanks are fired and the album does include a couple of classic cuts, but it does not deliver from front to back the way that "Sons of Northern Darkness" does, to use the most recent example. However, that may be expecting too much and probably sells "All Shall Fall" short because the songwriting is still significantly better than average. The bigger problem to my ears is a softening of the jagged edges that always defined the IMMORTAL sound. The riffs just don't contain all those barbs and sharp points that leave the flesh gouged and bloody. The same goes for the drumming. The playing is just as competent, but the attack isn't as thunderous. Those two elements are pretty damn important to the IMMORTAL approach. Big, bad, and dangerous is what I expect from IMMORTAL. Unfortunately, those aren't words I'd use to describe "All Shall Fall", an otherwise worthwhile IMMORTAL album.