A WINTERHORDE IN A RAVENREALM: Immortal’s lyrics as an expression of northeroic Gothic – Vittorio Marone, The University of Texas at San Antonio (in: Aeternum: The Journal of Contemporary Gothic Studies, Vol. 1, #2), Dez/2014.

“In the musical sphere, the gothic is not usually associated with the black metal scene, but rather with genres such as goth rock, darkwave, and post-punk. For example, Mick Mercer, an expert and prolific writer on gothic music, did not include Immortal in his encyclopaedia  of goth-related bands  and performers, titled  Music to Die For (2009). Further, the concoction of the ‘gothic black metal’ sub-genre signifies the conventional separation of the 2 realms (the gothic and black metal).  Notwithstanding these categorizations, this study suggests that Immortal’s lyrics  represent a distinctive and situated form of gothic that reshapes traditional gothic  tropes through Nordic and heroic themes.”

“Even  within  the  narrow  boundaries  of  the  black  metal  genre,  the  gothic,  the Nordic, and the heroic can appear as discrete entities that do not necessarily cross each other’s  path.  For  example,  the  ‘heroic’  component  can  be  inspired  by  historical  or mythological  deeds  set  in  different  geographical  regions,  that  are  not  necessarily ‘Nordic’. Some popular black metal  bands in  this spectrum include SuidAkrA (Celtic mythology), The Elysian Fields (Greek mythology), and  Melechesh (Mesopotamian/Sumerian  mythology). Further, in bands defined as  ‘gothic black metal’ (such as Cradle of Filth and, to a certain extent, Moonspell),  dark beauty, vampirism, and horror are prominent themes, while ‘the North’ and  the ‘the heroic’ are rather marginal and sporadic references. On the other hand, Immortal merge such themes in a cohesive and original style, here defined as Northeroic gothic.”

“This study is delimited to Immortal’s first 4 studio albums: Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticism (1992), Pure Holocaust (1993), Battles in the North (1995) and Blizzard Beasts (1997). After these albums, Demonaz, guitarist and lyricist of the band, was diagnosed with  a severe form of tendonitis, which prevented him from playing in  subsequent releases of the band (http://www.immortalofficial.com). In an interview  published on the webzine Chronicles of Chaos, Abbath, discussing the 5th album of the band titled At the Heart of Winter  (1999), their first release without Demonaz in the official lineup, declared: He [Demonaz] offered to write the lyrics and I had a  bunch of proposals to the lyrics, inspirations for the lyrics, but he’s the expert so I  gave him all the credit for it. […] He will probably be working with me when it  comes to lyrics in the future; I will do more myself, I am getting more trained now, I am getting better in English, to form sentences in the form of verses (http://www.chroniclesofchaos.com/articles.aspx?id=1-223).”

“The  author  decided  to  focus  on  the  lyrics  of  the  band  in  order  to analyse  the construction  of Immortal’s  own  mythology,  which  is made  more evident and explicit in the textual form, even if it is, by no means, limited to it.” Estudo auto-reconhecidamente forçado.

“In the article, songs are conventionally represented as [number of album-number of song]. For example, ‘At One With The Earth / Alone With Light In My Eyes’ [2-4] is an excerpt from the  4th song  of Immortal’s  2nd album  (see Appendix  A). When the  author  cites  song  or  album  titles,  this  is  plainly  expressed  in  the  text  or  as  a complement  to album-song  numbers in  brackets. For  example,  ‘Frozen  By  Icewinds’ [2-4, song title].”

“‘Gothic’  spaces  or figures have […]  always  been symbolic  locations into  which groups  of  people  can  ideologically  ‘throw’  what  they  would  like  to regard  as ‘other’ than their  desired current  condition […] or what  they want to  see as  the ‘true’, but now lost, foundations of their cultural positions (a return to primordial origins sometimes viewed as positive alternatives to – or at least forgotten roots of – the present world).”

“By  celebrating  the  imaginary  kingdom  of  Blashyrkh,  Immortal  construct  their  own gothic space from a ‘Northeroic’ perspective: a physical and spiritual site enshrined in a mythical North in  which natural and  supernatural forces recall  a glorious past  of  epic battles  amidst  coldness  and  darkness.  In  this  realm,  darkness  and  the  supernatural world are overarching gothic themes that permeate all  elements. It is here advisable to note that it is not the author’s intention to oversimplify gothic themes to ‘darkness’ and ‘the  supernatural  world’. These 2 motifs emerged from the analysis as prominent themes of Immortal’s lyrics, but they are not intended to encompass the richness and subtlety of gothic  preoccupations  and  research,  nor  to  limit  the  band’s  conceptual gamut.” Pouco convincente.

“This  dark  heroism,  however,  does  not  represent  the  ‘chivalrous’  deeds  and aspirations of the heroes of classic gothic works, such as Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto (1764) or Richard Hole’s Arthur, or the Northern Enchantment: A Poetical Romance (1789), the later rich in Norse references. It shows instead a beast-like pride and lust for battles and tragic endings in the mournful eternity of frost” Ou seja, tem PORRA NENHUMA de gótico.

“Far from being a mere geographical space, a cardinal direction, or a background setting, the North appears as an idealized place in which the natural world and the freezing climate define and permeate all elements.”

“In this colossal, freezing, and inhospitable place, the solitary outsider finds  a  realm  to  dwell in. The black metal persona, an individual standing apart from the rest of society, amplifies a typical trait of the Norwegian personality, that is a tendency to  value solitude. In Immortal’s lyrics, this solitary (and voluntary) outcast experiences a deep and intimate connection with nature and its freezing climate (‘At One With The Earth / Alone With Light In My Eyes’  [2-4];  ‘Alone  On The  Mountainside /  Breathing  The Clearest  Winds’  [4-6]),  as they shape and influence each other”

“In  the  descriptions  of  nature,  the  abundant  use  of  blurry  and  indeterminate words,  such  as  cloud,  fog,  mist,  nebula,  shadow  and  twilight  contributes  to  creating  a gothic atmosphere of mystery, liminality, and suspenseful stillness, which gives rise to a sinister  contrast  with  the  ubiquitous  storming  of  winds  and  blizzards  (‘A  thousand black clouds storms’ [1-3]; ‘At The Stormy Gates Of Mist’ [3-7], song title) and evokes a  Nordic  rendering  of  the  sublime  of  the  wilderness.  In  these descriptions,  nature  emerges  as  a  pervasive,  enigmatic,  and  powerful  principle  that permeates all elements, protecting, hiding, and isolating these majestic lands, and their unearthly creatures, from the rest of the world.”

“A powerful gothic symbol that connects the leading themes of Immortal’s  lyrics is  the  raven:  its  colour  is  black  (darkness),  it  can  usually  be  found  in  cold  regions (coldness), and  it is  a bird  (natural world) with  strong symbolic  and mystical  overtones (supernatural world: ‘Our Sacred Raven’ [3-1]). The raven also symbolizes the kingdom of Blashyrkh  (‘Ravenrealm’  [3-1];  ‘Blashyrkh…Mighty  Ravendark’  [3-10];  ‘The  Elder Raventhrone’ [3-10])  and war (‘A  Ravens Claws Lifted  Towards The Sky  / In A  Sign For  The Norse  Hordes To  Ride’ [2-2]).  This  unity  of elements,  which  is  a  significant feature of Immortal’s lyrics, is also a fundamental quality of the gothic: a liminal locus in which the boundaries between the natural and the supernatural, life and death, light and darkness, are blurred, suspended, and fused in ghastly settings and tragic figures.”

“By  further narrowing down the examination to smaller units of the discourse, the analysis unveiled one of the most original and fascinating elements of Immortal’s lyrics: an extensive use of closed compound words (2 or more words joined  together in a single word) that merge the gothic, the North, and the heroic in striking unitary figures. Most of these compound words are neologisms, which is arguably inspired by the Norwegian language, which is very productive in the creation of 1-word compounds.

In order to understand if the integration of creative compound words (neologisms) was an original characteristic of Immortal’s lyrics, or, instead, a common feature of  contemporary Norwegian black metal bands, the  author also analysed the English lyrics of the first 4 studio albums of 3 of the most influential bands in the genre:  Darkthrone (Soulside JourneyA Blaze  in the  Northern Sky, Under a Funeral Moon, and  Transilvanian Hunger),  Emperor  (In the  Nightside  Eclipse, Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk, IX Equilibrium, and Prometheus: The Discipline of Fire and Demise), and  Mayhem (Deathcrush, De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, Wolf’s Lair Abyss, and Grand Declaration of War). A total of 6 closed compound neologisms were found in Darkthrone’s lyrics (darkside, dreamking,  fullmoon,  goathorn,  soulside,  and  tombworld),  4  in  Emperor’s  lyrics (blacksword, fullmoon, nightspirit, and nightsky), and 5 in Mayhem’s lyrics (bloodswords, deathcrush,  gutsfuck,  necrolust,  and  posercorpse).  On  the  other  hand,  the  lyrics  of Immortal’s first 4 studio albums feature a total of 66 compound neologisms (some of them used across songs and albums), which makes this  characteristic a unique trait of the band and a structural feature of their artistic  production,  functional  in  the construction of their distinctive style.”

“One  of  the  most  fascinating  closed  compounds found  in  the  analysed  texts  (and  the  only  occurrence  of  a  verb  +  verb  form)  is ‘Dreamwatch’ [4-4]:

In The Forthcoming Breeze

With Tempted Eyes I Dreamwatch Dying Suns

In this  context, ‘dreamwatch’  can be interpreted  as a liminal  verb suspended  between dreaming and watching, which echoes the transitional state of the scene, surrounded by a forthcoming  breeze  (it is not yet there), awaiting with tempted  eyes  (which  denotes intention, desire, and anticipation, but not yet action) the faith of dying (in flux from life to  death)  suns  (the  use  of  the  plural  contributes  to  an  aura  of  indefiniteness  and mystery). By creating and pervasively using closed compound words, a multiplicity of meanings is condensed  into evocative symbols and  representations that are  gothic not only in  their  motifs, but also in  their synthesis  of such elements in  hybrid and liminal figures.”

“The expressive power of the compound words created by Immortal seems to have  influenced and inspired several heavy metal bands. An explorative analysis of band names (considering exclusively bands in the black metal genre whose first release was subsequent to Immortal’s use of the neologisms) revealed a total of 55 bands from 26 countries whose names could have been derived from 23 of the 66 closed compound neologisms found in Immortal’s first 4 albums (see  Appendix  D). Of course, this preliminary analysis does not demonstrate the direct  origin of such band names, but it suggests  that future  research  could be  directed  at investigating the cultural influence and generativity of Immortal’s themes and compound  neologisms in  the  black metal scene and beyond.”

Appendix A


Tracklist of Immortal’s First Four Studio Albums (1992-1997)

[1] Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticism (1992)

[1-1] Intro

[1-2] The Call Of The Wintermoon

[1-3] Unholy Forces Of Evil

[1-4] Cryptic Winterstorms

[1-5] Cold Winds Of Funeral Dust

[1-6] Blacker Than Darkness

[1-7] A Perfect Vision Of The Rising Northland

[2] Pure Holocaust (1993)

[2-1] Unsilent Storms In The North Abyss

[2-2] A Sign For The Norse Hordes To Ride

[2-3] The Sun No Longer Rises

[2-4] Frozen By Icewinds

[2-5] Storming Through / Red Clouds And Holocaustwinds

[2-6] Eternal Years On The Path To The Cemetary Gates

[2-7] As The Eternity Opens

[2-8] Pure Holocaust

[3] Battles In The North (1995)

[3-1] Battles In The North

[3-2] Grim And Frostbitten Kingdoms

[3-3] Descent Into Eminent Silence

[3-4] Throned By Blackstorms

[3-5] Moonrise Fields Of Sorrow

[3-6] Cursed Realms Of The Winterdemons

[3-7] At The Stormy Gates Of Mist

[3-8] Through The Halls Of Eternity

[3-9] Circling Above In Time Before Time

[3-10] Blashyrkh (Mighty Ravendark)

[4] Blizzard Beasts (1997)

[4-1] Intro

[4-2] Blizzard Beasts

[4-3] Nebular Ravens Winter

[4-4] Suns That Sank Below

[4-5] Battlefields

[4-6] Mountains Of Might

[4-7] Noctambulant

[4-8] Winter Of The Ages

[4-9] Frostdemonstorm

Appendix D

Closed Compound Words (Neologisms) in Immortal’s Lyrics and Subsequent Names of Black Metal Bands Band names in the black metal genre have been retrieved in June 2014 from the reference heavy metal website “Encyclopaedia Metallum: The Metal Archives” (www.metal-archives.com).

Battlelust Sweden

Blackstorm USA

Blackwing USA

Blackwinged Russia

Darkshine France

Darkshine Italy

Demonstorm Indonesia

Demonstorm Mexico

Demonthrone Finland

Frostdemonstorm Greece

Frostdemonstorm Chile

Frostmoon Eclipse Italy

Frostmoon Eclipse Germany

Frostmoon Norway

Attack of the Northern Frostwinds Colombia

Frostwind Germany

Dying Fullmoon Germany

Fullmoon Poland

The Mystic Fullmoon Poland

Fullmoon Rise Russia

Mystical Fullmoon Brazil

Fullmoon Promises Italy

Mystical Fullmoon Italy

Cold Fullmoon Czech Rep.

Midnight Fullmoon France

Fullmoon Dweller Mexico

Fullmoon Mist Sweden

Fullmoon Night Chile

Bloodred Fullmoon Taiwan

Goathrone Greece

Goatmoon Finland

Moonfog Ireland

Moonfog Darkness Russia

Moonfog Hungary

Ravendark’s Monarchal Canticle Brazil 

Raventhrone Canada/Austria

Underdark Ukraine

Wintercoffin USA

Winterdemon Finland

Wintergate Germany

Winterhorde Israel

Wintermoon Brazil

Cryptic Wintermoon Germany

Wintermoon Finland

Wintermoon Poland

Wintermoon Estonia

Spiritual Wintermoon Greece

Wintermoon Mexico

Wintermoon Germany

Wintermoon Spain

Wintermoon France

Wintershadow Spain

Winterstorm Spain (2007 origin)

Cryptic Winterstorm UK

Winterstorm Spain (2010 origin)

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