Abbath and Demonaz walked through the grim winter landscapes of Telemark, Norway. The gray-white sky and the snow blended almost as one.
The purpose of this trek was to gather inspiration for a follow-up to “All Shall Fall,” and they were geared up full in black leather and corpsepaint, should anyone sight them and take pictures.
Yet there was emptiness gnawing at their souls, and the journey felt inauthentic and hollow, Abbath thought. It was true that nothing was like before. The bond between them was simply not the same.
Due to his wrist condition, Demonaz could no longer play diabolic tremolo guitar riffs, he only wrote lyrics and performed managerial duties. But that was not the whole of it. Abbath also considered whether he had already taken Immortal too far from their original sound, and exerted too much control. But no. It couldn’t be so. A band was supposed to go forward, not stay in its past glory.
Their path sloped downhill, toward a snaking fjord in the distance. Slowly, Abbath became aware of something – a low thrumming sound? His meditations dissolved, as he tried to pinpoint the origin. Just what the hell was this? Abbath looked to the clouded sky, but honestly the sound wasn’t like any aircraft. It was lower, heavier, and definitely coming from below.
“Hear that?” he asked Demonaz in a low croak.
Demonaz stopped, listening.
“Someone’s playing funeral doom? In this middle of nowhere? No. It doesn’t sound like music. Rather, machinery of some kind.”
Abbath took a few steps forward, into the direction he approximated to be the sound’s origin.
Then, without warning, the snow gave way violently beneath him.
“Fuck!” he shouted as he fell into the darkness of the snow-concealed crevasse, and the voice echoed back at him, as if in a hellish dream. Until he understood it was actually Demonaz, above, yelling the exact same thing in obvious shock.
Abbath himself was too much taken by surprise for proper shock even to register. Instead, he understood with a strange clarity that this fall would likely be fatal.
The impact hurt, but less than Abbath had anticipated.
Still, the motion did not stop. Now he was sliding downward on an angled ice surface. He understood to have fallen into a large, concealed cave.
He could barely see the ice zooming by fast. But ahead, there was light -
Which could simply not be natural. Also the thrumming noise grew by each second.
The patch of ice ended abruptly and Abbath was slammed against large rocks jutting from the ground. Again, it hurt, but not fatally. If he was in luck, he had not even broken or sprained anything.
As the motion had finally ceased, Abbath could take in the sight before him with more clarity.
The lights were certainly man-made, dirty yellow floodlights, illuminating what appeared to be a subterranean factory of some kind. It was a rectangular monstrosity, with large, high cylindrical containers to the sides, and steel catwalks circling the structure on multiple levels.
In the glare of the lights, he could also very well recognize the shape near the factory’s roof. A huge black swastika, tilted 45 degrees.
His blood ran cold. He remembered from the history class how the Nazis’ heavy water facility in here had been sabotaged by Norwegian special forces agents.
But did this mean .. some assholes were imitating Nazis now? A sick kind of tribute? Or had this facility been here underground, undetected and in operation, the whole time since the Second World War?
What the fuck!?
Abbath considered. The wise choice would be to scramble back up, the same way he came, and alert the authorities.
But somehow, perhaps due to watching too much X-Files, he thought of the possibility that the facility might already be cleaned up, or even dismantled completely by the time any officials would arrive. Then he and Demonaz would simply be labeled crazy.
So, investigate this place of doom, and right now? Abbath understood it carried a fatal risk, in case there were armed far-right militants (or worse - actual Nazis) inside.
One thing was for sure. That alone was not the way to do it. He needed Demonaz.
Abbath judged the distance. Anyone on guard would likely not hear, over the subsonic din of their own machinery.
“Demonaz!” Abbath shouted to the direction he had come from. Some seconds passed with nothing happening.
“Abbath! Are you alive?” came the reply from above at last.
“There’s a fucking Nazi factory down here! You need to see it! Drop down and you’ll hit some ice, but it’s safe enough!”
Abbath strained his ears to hear Demonaz dropping into the hole as well, followed by the sound of his leather gear scraping against the ice, getting closer.
But what he couldn’t anticipate was the guitarist slamming into him at almost full force. Abbath’s breath was knocked out as he was thrown back against the rocks overlooking the factory.
“Fuck! You did that on purpose!” Abbath growled as soon as the worst shock was over.
“I couldn’t see shit.”
Enough time had been wasted on this stupidity. They both were still relatively unharmed. Abbath pointed toward the facility. “Take a look.”
Demonaz’s face took on a look of complete stupefaction.
“No way this is fucking real,” he barely got out.
“Yet it’s sitting right there. What do you say, we take a closer look?”
“If it is what I think it is, there’s bound to be guards. With guns that shoot as fast as Horgh plays. It’s suicide.”
Abbath knew Demonaz was exactly right. They were out of their depth. But so had they been, when they had initially started Amputation, the death metal predecessor of Immortal. Back then, extreme metal had been mocked by the vast majority as immature noise. But they had believed, and triumphed.
Of course the stakes were different. To reap musical ridicule and failure wasn’t quite the same as being riddled with lead from underground Nazis’ automatic rifles.
Yet the feeling of determination was the same. Abbath knew this had to be done, no matter what the result.
The two crept ever closer to the facility, keeping low and in the cover of rocks where possible. The black leather certainly helped, the white corpsepaint less so. But it would have been too time-consuming to wipe off.
There appeared to be no entrances facing them on the lowest level, so they would either have to circle the main structure, or get up on the catwalks.
In both cases, they would be illuminated.
Abbath cursed inwardly. To be able to transform into the elder raven, Mighty Ravendark, and be able to observe from flight – right now he could have paid anything for that ability. Unfortunately, their song lyrics wouldn’t exactly translate to reality by willpower.
Or what if they did, after all?
Abbath remembered what he had in his backpack, for lyrics-writing inspiration. Now he hoped that they could be used for a kind of remote viewing, like USA and the Soviets had allegedly done.
He laid the backpack on the ground and began digging.
“What the fuck are you doing?” Demonaz whispered.
“Time to gain a higher perspective,” Abbath growled back.
Abbath found the dried mushrooms and took a few of them in his hand, then stuffed them promptly in his mouth and began chewing.
He knew the downside. It would take about half an hour before the effect started to take hold, and over an hour before it was at its strongest. It would have been better to be prepared beforehand.
But still, it beat rushing their way in and possibly (likely) getting killed.
While waiting for the mushrooms, they could at least observe.
At regular intervals, black-clad guards would indeed circle the perimeter. The object hanging from their sling was certainly a rifle. And if Abbath strained his eyes, he could see the Sig rune insignia on the uniform.
“Fucking SS,” Demonaz noted, seeing the same.
Finally Abbath noted that something was changing. Like growing in height, though staying in place. Colors appeared more vibrant, the thrumming of the machinery gaining both upper and lower frequencies.
Yet he knew that it might be not enough for the drastic effect he was desiring.
Abbath tried to keep his voice as even as possible. “Demonaz. I need you to punch me in the face.”
“What the actual fuck?”
“Trust me. It needs to be done, if I am to fly like a raven and scout that place.”
The first punch was just a mild slap. Abbath felt the sting, but there was no actual effect. No transformation.
“Do it properly,” Abbath spat angrily.
Demonaz drew his arm back, gathering strength, and this time the impact was properly violent. Abbath’s consciousness was violently jolted somewhere above. He only hoped he could retain control of his remote sight. This was something he hadn’t ever done before, and to be honest he could not have hoped for it to succeed to this degree.
He flew above the facility roof, imagining himself croaking in a raven voice.
Argh.. Rah.. Gack-gack-gack..
Then his consciousness dived right through, passing several floors of the factory, seeing an insanely complex network of pipes, machinery both electrical and mechanical, and armed white-coats and black-coats presiding over them..
And within a transparent, roughly two-meter tall cylindrical container, something utterly horrifying.
He was jolted violently back to his physical body, reeling from nausea and horror.
“Fuck...” was all he could get out right now. With blurred eyes, he could also see Demonaz’ concerned expression, but whether he had been hurt by the punch was inconsequential, compared to what he had just seen.
“Grim,” Abbath breathed out slowly, then repeating for effect. “Grim.”
Demonaz looked in puzzlement. “You mean…?”
It was too much. Having Nazis roaming underground in their homeland was bad enough. But that they had – if Abbath had not imagined – their late drummer Erik aka Grim stored inside a glass container for whatever perverse experiments – was beyond anything he could have imagined in his worst nightmares.
He and Demonaz were climbing up the ice surface now, back the way they had come.
It would be useless to try to risk their lives inside the factory, Abbath understood now. Somehow, these desecrators would have to pay. But it would have to happen later. Because it couldn’t happen right now, an aimless anger welled inside him, threatening to take over completely. The slight nausea from eating the mushrooms didn't help matters.
Finally they were outside again. The sun was already beginning to set; it was not long until it would become dark.
“How sure can you be of what you saw?” Demonaz asked.
“I saw the fucking pipes. The computer screens. The fucking gleaming steel of their rifles. And then I saw … him. Just as clearly as the rest.”
“OK, OK. I get it.”
For a moment, there was almost silence. Away from the crevasse, the thrum of the factory receded, until it was barely audible over their crunching footsteps. As if the horror didn’t exist. But Abbath could not unsee it from his mind now.
Then another kind of sound manifested itself from the distance.
Abbath could pick up the distorted guitar. And drums. A stomping mid-tempo beat.
He accelerated his pace, and the two crested a low hill.
Against the backdrop of white, Abbath now saw a full film crew, and a band playing, with an actual tank acting as their drum riser.
“Must be Sabaton,” Demonaz noted. “What the hell they’re doing here?”
Abbath listened to the vocals for a few seconds. Ironically, the song seemed to be about the original assault to the Telemark heavy water plant.
“Trying to make their video authentic. But they have no fucking idea,” he replied.
Abbath of course considered asking the Swedish band for help. But he honestly did not know whether that would do any good. Singing about war, and actually waging war, were still worlds apart.
Demonaz admired how Sabaton's vocalist Joakim had taken the situation after Abbath had explained it to him. He had told the crew to halt, and was now going over potential battle plans.
“There's tons of snow on the mountains. If we play loud enough, we could bury the shitheads. But ... the cave roof protects them,” he was musing, mostly to himself.
A moment of silence followed. Demonaz thought it was not awkward, but totally metal. If no-one had anything of significance to say, why to open your mouth and prove your insignificance?
Until the drummer opened up.
“Let's use the tank.”
Joakim looked at him, dumbfounded. “Daniel. For fuck's sake. It's just a prop.”
“Not exactly. The cannon is functional. And we have shells inside.”
Everyone in the film crew turned their heads to look. Demonaz could imagine “Fuck” being chanted in unison, but instead the silence just became deeper than ever.
“That … sounds like we're good for war,” Joakim said at last.
Demonaz stood aside as the Sabaton guys started the tank engines. The drum kit was quickly dismantled from top of the armored vehicle, then it began to move forward, turning on its tracks to acquire a line of sight to the Nazis' below-ground hideout.
“That looks about right,” Abbath groaned, almost like he would vomit at any moment.
“I'll fire the first shell now!” Daniel shouted and disappeared inside the tank.
A few seconds later the cannon fired like thunder itself. That was the essence of warmetal, Demonaz thought. The whole tank was surrounded by a thick cloud of smoke.
He thought it would be a direct hit, opening a bigger hole in the ground for an avalance to come through.
And indeed, it was. The ground shook again as the shell hit. Even from the distance, Demonaz saw the crater open up to the depths below. Joakim was getting excited.
“Fire another! Make it wider!”
Another hit. Now all they needed was the avalanche.
Joakim motioned to the band's sound guy. “Maximum volume! Doesn't matter if you blow the speakers!”
The Sabaton bandmembers went for their instruments, starting a hyperspeed blastbeat that sounded surprisingly like Immortal. At an eardrum-bursting volume. Demonaz felt flattered. Since the two had found the Nazi base, it was fitting that something resembling their music would be used to bury those shitheads for good.
Demonaz thought of Grim, stored deep below in the facility. If Abbath had even seen correctly...? Now they would never know. But possibly it was for the best. He kept scanning the nearby mountain peaks, waiting for the snow to come rolling down any moment from now.
But instead, the sound from the band's PA begun to die down, getting muffled and weaker.
“What is this?” the sound guy exclaimed. “I'm trying to push it, but the volume just gets sucked away! I can't get it any louder!”
Demonaz turned to look ahead, to where the shells had hit. There appeared to be a shimmering blue haze emanating from below. Some devious Nazi technology, negating their sound pressure and thus protecting the base?
“Fuck! They're on to us,” Demonaz shouted. “I don't think we can trigger the avalanche. We have to get inside, and disable whatever they're using to jam us!”
“But that means -” Abbath croaked.
“Yes. It's likely we won't come back. Fuck. I think -”
Demonaz considered for a moment. For years, he had felt like not being properly part of Immortal any more, even though he was writing the lyrics. The pleasure of using his BC Rich to unleash tremolo playing from Hell itself had been denied from him. He could still do it in small bursts, but never a full show on stage.
Therefore, it would only be right if –
“I'll get back down there. Cut their power or die trying,” Demonaz said with fatalistic resolve.
Abbath stood with his mouth open, apparently not quite believing. But Demonaz knew his way was right. If it went down as he thought it would, Abbath would go on with Immortal, perhaps writing a song of this day, to remain in history for ages to come.
Demonaz had Joakim's “armor” tank top on top of his own clothes now. It wouldn't do anything to stop bullets, but maybe it would give a mental edge. The spike wristbands were slightly better; they could actually slice flesh if needed. He just needed to hit first, and hit hard.
He was down in the cave again, creeping toward the facility. The noise of the machinery was more intense now, apparently due to the Nazis' “shield” technology also being active.
If he was honest, he had no fucking idea how he would succeed. It was practically going in blind. There were now multiple guards on the perimeter, walking around in alertness, rifles ready.
As the shells had blown open the cave ceiling, more light was coming in. So at least the guards couldn't use night vision goggles, and Demonaz could have a better chance if he stayed in the shadows.
He crept closer, until the stairs leading up to the catwalks were roughly a ten meters from him now. This was the closest he could get without exposing himself. Right in front of him, a guard was just about to turn his back –
Demonaz thought this was his opportunity.
It was not good, he knew, as anything but a completely silent kill could alert the others, but possibly the best he was going to get.
Demonaz leaped from behind the rocks, and lunged with the spikes at the guard's exposed throat.
Blood sprayed, as the guard's eyes went wide from shock and agony.
He also pressed down on the trigger of his rifle. Thunderous, uncontrolled full automatic fire echoed in the cave, and Demonaz struggled to keep the muzzle away from him.
But he certainly had the attention of everyone on the perimeter now. Just a moment, and he would be riddled with gunfire from multiple directions.
It was time to abandon all sense, and sink into a deep rage. Demonaz imagined a horde of winterdemons, ripping everything in its path. He struck again with the spikes, this time directly into the guard's eyes. He seemed to be going down, going slack, but Demonaz knew he couldn't waste any time to finish him. He just needed the rifle –
Wrestling it from the wounded guard was easy enough. Demonaz had hunted while younger, so guns weren't foreign to him. There was just enough time to also rip away a few spare magazines from the guard's belt, and then Demonaz was on his way up the stairs.
He sprayed the rest of the magazine below, completely unaimed, just to buy him some time.
The return fire started then, bullets pinging off the catwalk. Demonaz expected a red-hot pain going through his body any second, but by miracle he was unharmed so far. It was almost as if the Mighty Ravendark itself was protecting him now. Only a tiny voice at the back of his head reminded him that it made zero sense in reality.
But he was not skilled enough to keep running and reloading the rifle at the same time. Therefore he just had to keep going.
He rounded a corner, right into the path of another guard. Demonaz had surprise on his side, so he swung the rifle like a club at the guard's head, followed by a punch with his spiked hand. Again, blood sprayed; it was as if he was satiating the winterdemons' thirst.
Two down. But his luck couldn't last forever. He had to get inside the facility. The guards below were in pursuit, firing once more.
Going along the catwalk that circled the facility, Demonaz spotted a grille in the wall, roughly at his shoulder height. Possibly a ventilation duct. That was possibly the way in. With not many seconds to spare, he struck it repeatedly with the butt of his rifle, until it gave way. Then he began the somewhat awkward climb inside, while the gunfire still went on.
And it was at that point his luck ran out. Pain erupted in his left shoulder. He fell on his stomach inside the duct, growling hard.
And yet he knew he couldn't stop. There would be more bullets. Many more. It was pure luck that he had not been hit in his head instead. Drawing strength from the pulsing agony, he began crawling deeper in with as much speed as he could summon.
As soon as Demonaz was so deep in the duct that the guards outside couldn’t possibly hit him any more, he went to examine the wound.
It appeared that the bullet had went through. The blood loss was not life-threatening, but Demonaz certainly felt it as weakness and dizziness. He set out to bandage it primitively by ripping a length of fabric from his black shirt.
It would do. Thankfully it had not been his right shoulder; now he could still fire the rifle if necessary.
Then, back to the mission.
Demonaz first reloaded the rifle and set it on single shots. Then he began crawling forward, soon arriving at an intersection. If luck was with him, he would be able to map out the place mentally, while staying concealed. As long as he did not make overt noise while crawling.
Further grilles along the duct allowed views into the rooms below. Most of them contained seemingly advanced machinery, some resembling recording studio equipment. Demonaz thought he would need to find some kind of control room, hopefully containing large, easily recognizable circuit breakers to plunge the whole place into darkness.
Demonaz traveled deeper into the maze of ducts, passing more intersections, backtracking occasionally to cover every direction. But he could not see the transparent containers Abbath had spoken of. Maybe they were even deeper in the facility.
He was not sure how much time had passed. It felt like hours, but was potentially much less. He wondered if the Nazis might even attack Abbath and Sabaton’s crew on the surface, if he took too long in here. Or if they were just dedicated to protecting their facility at any cost.
Finally he arrived at something resembling an electricity control room. There was one black-glad guard standing inside; it was not going to be pretty in any case. Opening the grille would already alert him.
For a moment Demonaz considered what the hell he was doing. He was in effect hunting other humans.
Afraid to shoot strangers.
A cold hatred took over him, as he considered what these people represented, and without further hesitation he aimed at the guard’s head and pulled the trigger.
The rifle barked roughly in the enclosed space, and the guard went down with a puff of red exploding from his skull.
Again, Demonaz would not have much time. He smashed the grille open and dropped down. Now he would just hit every circuit breaker he could get his hands on.
But before he could do anything, the control room’s door burst open, and several guards rushed in, led by an older man in a white coat, armed with a long-barreled pistol instead of a rifle.
“Mr. Harald Nævdal. I have been following your every move,” the man spoke. “I am not only the SS-Oberführer overseeing the science operations in this facility, but a capable occultist. I saw your approach, your travels in the ventilation ducts, even your thoughts, as vibrations in the ether.”
Demonaz did not even pay attention to the Nazi officer’s every word. Most of them went right through his brain.
He only thought of how he had failed bitterly. Maybe if he fired at the controls, he could still bring the power down, but he would certainly not have time to hit every breaker before being gunned down. So he would have to choose carefully. He strained his eyes, trying to see the small lettering above each.
“Before we dispose of you, I want you to witness the unique experiments we have conducted. I want to see the utter terror on your face,” the officer said now.
Two high, see-through cylinders were carted in to the room.
“Though I must admit, it’s not only our science which makes this possible. The properties of the occult ether are unique in this place. Harnessing and containing it have made it possible -”
Demonaz looked inside the closest container.
Fuck, just as Abbath had told. What was this goddamned cruelty? Why had they chosen exactly him for these experiments? Why, in the name of Blashyrkh?
“Ah, Blashyrkh,” the officer mused. “It is ... a living realm. One that has power over death itself. Activate the container, bitte.”
One of the men threw a switch on the side of Erik’s container, and the dead drummer’s eyes snapped open. His mouth opened slowly.
“Harald...” he spoke.
Demonaz knew he was witnessing pure blasphemy. Resurrecting their dead bandmate by occult Nazi science. This could not be possible.
“Of course, this is just in preparation, in practice, for our greatest dream. We are so close to success already,” the officer went on.
The second container was brought closer, and Demonaz could already guess what – or who – he was going to see.
There was no question.
This was too much. Demonaz knew he was going to die, possibly in seconds, but he had to do something. He could possibly get a shot or two off before being gunned down in response.
He scanned the circuit breakers once more.
Considered what the officer had spoken of.
If Demonaz had not misunderstood, they were harnessing the power of Blashyrkh... Containing it. How was it possible that the realm Demonaz had imagined as the basis of his lyrics, actually existed here?
That was possibly not much more outlandish than Nazis existing below ground in present day Norway, trying to resurrect Hitler.
But - if the contained power of Blashyrkh allowed this, what would it do – uncontained?
There was indeed one switch with the word EINGRENZUNG above it.
That was possibly it.
In almost a continuous motion, Demonaz rammed the selector on full auto, then leveled the rifle at the breaker and pulled the trigger, already diving forward.
The breaker was thrown into the “off” position.
“Nein!” the officer shouted.
A cacophony of gunfire filled the air. Demonaz was sure he would be riddled with bullets in a split-second from now.
But then air right in front of him began to ripple and distort, and he was suddenly facing a glowing white, monstrous flying creature. Like a disembodied dragon. Demonaz glanced around and saw several of them materializing seemingly from nowhere.
They began to rip into the guards, tearing their uniforms and flesh. Streams of blood were flying everywhere, arcing through the air. Demonaz was by now lying on the floor, sure he would be torn to pieces as well.
Two demons zeroed in on the Oberführer, pulling into opposite directions, until the officer simply snapped in two, blood and internal organs flying.
Then a colossal rumble started. Not satisfied with just killing the Nazis, the demons were now ripping the room itself apart. Demonaz looked above to see them rending the roof to pieces, and not stopping there.
The demons were tearing down the entirety of the facility complex.
Demonaz could see to the outside now. An insane amount of snow was coming down. The end would be upon him in seconds. At least the Nazis would be truly and well buried too.
But ahead of the avalanche, he saw a flying, large black shape.
It grew in size, until Demonaz recognized it from his own imagination.
Mighty Ravendark, the elder raven.
The raven croaked, and its voice was like thunder. Demonaz somehow understood, almost telepathically, that it was coming to take him away of this place.
But to where? Into the afterlife?
The raven was upon him now. Just a second ahead of the masses of snow.
With barely any strength or sanity left, Demonaz climbed on its back, and it took off, just as snow was crashing all around them, burying the Nazi facility for all eternity.
Mighty Ravendark accelerated violently into the sky, flapping its long wings, and Demonaz’s consciousness faded into a blinding white.
Slowly, the intense whiteness faded to something that was recognizable. His vision was blurry as of yet, but he thought it was a stark, snowy landscape, already darkening.
Was this the land of the dead?
Demonaz registered ache all over his body. That probably meant he was still – alive?
He heard indistinct shouts, and rapid footsteps. He tried to turn into their direction, but could not concentrate his strength enough. He fell back on the snow instead.
A few seconds later, he felt himself being lifted roughly into a sitting position. He recognized it was Abbath.
“Harald … Fuck. I thought you were gone,” Abbath growled from extremely close by.
Demonaz could only barely formulate words in response.
“What the … fuck … actually happened?”
“I don’t know. The avalanche went down, but somehow … it spat you back up on its way. I know, that’s not possible.”
“It was … him.”
“You mean Erik?”
“No … I did see him. But it was Mighty Ravendark who got me out.”
Abbath shook him a bit, in good humor.
“You crazy bastard. The mushrooms. You ate them too, didn’t you?”
“No,” Demonaz protested.
“Well. Doesn’t matter. We buried the Nazis. And we’re both still standing.”
Demonaz knew this was a reference to the lyric he had written, “At the Stormy Gates of Mist” and felt a bit warm inside.
By now he could see more clearly. Joakim had arrived, and crouched down next to them.
“Guys. I think … it’s obvious we broke a few laws doing what we did. Firing the tank cannon, caving down the snow from the mountain. It’s probably best we don’t speak of this, to anyone ever. But we can always remember that we did beat those fucking Nazis.”
Demonaz thought once more of what exactly he had seen, of what exactly he had done, and shuddered a bit. He could very well agree. He would be glad to get back to just writing for Immortal.