Metal review: Immortal at Avalon, April 2.

Reviewed by Alex Distefano

Think of Norway's Immortal as a more sinister Kiss. Not as misanthropic or anti-Christian as other black-metal covens such as Gorgoroth or Marduk, Immortal have catchier songs and perhaps more pizzazz than Dark Funeral or Dimmu Borgir. Their live show proved that although it's been 20 years, there's no extinguishing the metallic fire that burns within them.

This unholy musical trinity includes founding member Abbath on guitar and vocals, bassist Apollyon and drummer Horgh (of Hypocrisy), augmented offstage by lyricist Demonaz. Their origins in the dark, icy, forest-covered depths of Norway provide perfect inspiration for their raw, crushing sound. Some of Immortal's earliest offerings are quite caustic (see 1993's "Pure Holocaust"), and many of their songs showcase ├╝berfast black-metal brutality; all are scorched with Abbath's unballadic vocal rasp. Yet while Norwegian black metal has drawn infamy from the actions of Burzum main man and former Mayhem bassist Vark Vikernes (convicted of murdering Mayhem founding member Euronymous), Immortal have remained true to their roots, which also mingle interludes of serenity and clean acoustic-guitar harmonies.

Underneath a stage backdrop of mystical mountains and full moon, Immortal hit Hollywood for one of only three North American shows. The band churned into action promptly at 8:45, and so did the pit, which whirled strong from first song to last. The set was drawn from 2009's "All Shall Fall" as well as from classic albums such as "Battles in the North," "Sons of Northern Darkness" and "At the Heart of Winter."

Immortal's intense live spectacle epitomized everything that makes black metal fucking awesome: corpse paint, spiked armor and punishing epics. Black-metal geeks, death-metal tough guys and everyone else in the pit (this writer included) were engulfed in a psychedelic atmosphere of fog, pot smoke and strobe lights.

As sweat and beer oozed out of the pit, heads banged and horns went up time and time again for over two hours, especially for the faster, thrashier songs. No question: We experienced one of Norway's finest and most majestic black-metal units. But most agreed on one thing: 10:45 on a Friday night is when a black-metal show ought to begin, not end.

SET LIST

All Shall Fall
The Rise of Darkness
Solarfall
Sons of Northern Darkness
Tyrants
Hordes to War
Norden on Fire
Grim and Frostbitten Kingdoms
A Sign for the Norse Hordes To Ride
Pure Holocaust Medley
Unearthly Kingdom
One by One
Withstand the Fall of Time
Beyond the North Waves
Battles in the North
Blashyrkh (Mighty Ravendark)