Let me make this quite clear: Immortal are going to Riff Mountain. And they are travelling by way of Riff Valley, Riff Forest, crossing the Riff River and including a stop at Riff Castle, which I assume is depicted on the front cover of the album. There are, it would seem, a lot of riffs on this album.
The fact that my personal favourite riff is finished a minute into the first song (the colossal 'Withstand the Fall of Time') doesn't really take away from the powerful journey that the album takes the listener on - that introduction is merely a statement of intent and you will know right away whether or not you like 'At the Heart of Winter.
For those searching for grim black metal or the more aggressive style of Immortal's earlier work there might be some disappointment or confusion, since AtHoW combines the frosty tremolo riffs and blastbeats of traditional black metal with a more dynamic and varied use of guitar styles drawn from thrash metal, power metal and, occasionally, folk metal. Vocals are not a focal point: I'm not convinced Abbath is that sure what he's growling about (I'm certainly not) and the vocal sections are quite short considering the lengthy songs, so at least they never get boring. Leads and clean sections crop up a few times, mostly towards the end of the album, and are all well-judged and welcome changes of pace, especially the more thoughtful parts of the title track.
But really, we're here for the riffs.There are little ones, BIG ones, fast ones, more considered ones, long ones, catchy ones, headbanging ones, verse-type riffs, epic riffs, aggressive riffs, and so on. By the time 'Years of Silent Sorrow' ends, we have well and truly arrived at Riff Mountain.