I'm quite positive Immortal don't need any in depth introduction. You're probably all aware of who they are, what they have achieved and what the latest album "At the Heart of Winter" sound like. This interview was done with singer/guitarplayer Abbath, two weeks before the release of the aforementioned album. Hopefully you will find it interesting anyway.

There were a lot of things that were new and different for/with Immortal with the "At the Heart of Winter" - release. Did you feel like you wanted a new start as Demonaz was no longer a performing member of the line-up? Or were there other reasons?
It just felt natural to me to go in that direction and to go more professional. To make an album that would be more comprehensible to a greater number of people. We wanted to "open up" our style for a lot more people. For new and old people.

Which changes do you think are most evident?
I think there was a lot of changes in the guitar technique with me taking over the guitars. Demonaz and me had some differences when it came to music writing and it's been a lot easier for me to do this album myself.

But he wrote the lyrics for "At the Heart of Winter". Why?
I let Demonaz do the lyrics this time and I think that is actually how it work best.

How does it feel not to have Demonaz on stage with you anymore?
WeIl, it was strange in the beginning, but now I don't think it is anymore. It's been a long time now... we did a whole tour without him. And I'm getting used to the guitarplaying now and I don't miss my bass anymore. I don't think about it anymore.

The first thing that the record buyers noticed was of course the change in visual appearance of an Immortal album. How come you abandoned the old way with the members on the covers?
It was only me and Horgh (the drummer) who recorded the album and we didn't want to present the band as a duo on the cover again. We did that on "Battles in the North" and we wanted that to be exceptional. We also had an offer from Osmose to use a professional artist, a french painter, and we sent him the ideas we had for the motive to see what he could do with them. He did an excellent job! The whole vision, the whole atmosphere is just great!

Anyone can see that it's a castle of some sort at the cover. But what castle is it? A friend of mine suggested it should be Valhalla.
Valhalla? Nonono. ...it's a fantasy concept, not based on any religions. It's all total fantasy! It's the centre of Blashyrkh, the frostdemon of whom we are writing about. It's the castle of Nebulah, which is the master of the concept that we are presenting. It has nothing to do with any religions or whatever.

You also used a new logo on the album.
About the logo, we wanted a more pronounced logo. A more readable one for everyone. I think that the name is the most important thing to come through, not the logo itself. And we still used the old logo. It's in the booklet.

For the first time you chose to record outside of Norway, at Abyss studio in Sweden. How do you think that worked out?
I think it was about time to find a good producer. We could of course got Peter (Tägtgren) over here to produce in our own studio but it's also inspiring to go to another studio, out of the country. And to work with people who are really into your music and into Metal in general. Peter was the answer. He was real good at understanding what we wanted and had a great deal of patience. And we knew that beforehand, that he was the right guy for Immortal to work with. And we will definitely work with him the next time as well.

It was not a very grim and harsch production though. Not the kind of production Immortal fans were used to. Comment?
To me it was more important to get a real heavy and more clear sound, while at the same time not being so fashionable. For me it's more important to have a more oldfashioned guitarsound and at the same time have a really powerful production. I think we managed that... to make a professional sound and at the same time not a wimpy sound. That's my opinion. Others may have a different opinion, but I think that it's perfect.

I seem to remember that you had a rather big studio budget for "Blizzard Beasts". What was it like this time? Even bigger?
It was the rather same budget actually. But with "Blizzard Beasts" we were spending longer time in the studio than we were expecting. We worked a lot, lot faster this time. We were a lot more ready before we entered the studio this time.

Which album have been your most succesful one in terms of sales then? And do you think it was fair it was that perticular one?
The best selling album for Immortal is "Battles in the North". I think it's the most interesting Immortal album so far and I can understand why it sold more than the other albums. I think it was, at that point, a big achievement for Immortal to take the Immortal-concept and style to such a level. We should have taken another direction after that when we did "Blizzard Beasts" though. Because I think that "Battles in the North" should have stayed on its own. If we had made an album like "At the Heart of Winter" after that, that would have been better.

Apparently Immortal is the best selling band on the Osmose label. Does this surprise you?
Surprise me... weIl, I don't think Osmose have very good bands actually. It surprised me that "Blizzard Beasts" sold so much. I had never expected that. We have been on Osmose a long time and we have grown with the label and I think we have a big name in the scene so... It's great that we have sold so many records.

Do you feel any pressure from it?
I don't see any competition. As long as we have a good relationship with Hervé of Osmose we can feel the stability that we do. We have never felt any competition from anyone. We do our own thing and that is most important.

As you've been on Osmose for all your albums, I take it it's been a satisfying cooperation. Am I right?
Yeah, it's been satisfying quite all the way, yes. They've always been fair to us. Faithful. We've always received our money etc... there's no shit! They have lots of respect for Immortal and we have lots of respect for them.

"At the Heart of Winter" was released almost at the same time as two other major Norwegian acts released new albums, Dimmu Borgir and Emperor. Do you think this would affect the sales?
I don't know. Maybe, maybe not. I have no idea. I don't think so because I don't feel any competition with these bands. They have totally different styles. But you don't know in this business with sales and so. It's all so strange. It depends on promotion and everything. I don't care if they sell more than Immortal. I'm not getting jealous. We are doing our thing and they can do their thing. I don't care.

How would you explain Immortal being a Black Metal band without singing about Satan or any really related topics?
We don't sing about that but we have an evil image. We have a cold atmosphere. Of course it's not religious or anything, but our concept, you can call it Black Metal. I don't think it has to be religious to be Black Metal. If you have the right atmosphere in your music and the right concept, it can be totally Black Metal. But that's my opinion you know. Immortal have always seemed to put their music first and were never that much bothered with being "oh, so evil" that some bands were in the early days.

Now these bands seem to have changed and adapted your way of thinking. Any comment?
Now people have gotten their brains back it seems. They focus more on the artistic side of it which it was supposed to be in the start. Lots of people they really lost their heads and started with side activities (an interesting term for arson and murder, ed.). They lived them so much into it that they lost their wits. For us, we have always focused on the artistic side of it and never had any side activities or anything. We don't go around thinking that we are evil in our private life. We don't try to be cool and evil all the time. That's something we are finished with a long time ago. We are not stupid people.

What can you tell me about your new bassplayer?
We have a new bassplayer yes, a permanent one. His names is Iscariah and he is a very good and excellent bassplayer.
He's from a band called Enchanted.

What's your opinion of the current Black Metal scene?
I think there are a few interesting new bands coming up. Not a lot, but some. I don't like the development with the synthezeisers though. I think it's important that the main instrument is the guitars. But I think more and more bands get hyped and forget their roots. Synthezeisers are taking over more and more and is dominant in the music. But that's a matter of taste and that's my opinion. I think some bands are getting too hyped though.

Footnote: the album "At The Heart Of Winter" was released by Osmose in March 1999. Interview done by Tony with invalid help from Joel at Border Music and Nicolas at Osmose Proudctions.