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Immortal's early years go as far when they started as a black/death metal band Old Funeral in 1988, releasing two demos until 1990. The band's frontman Abbath also formed a band Amputation, in 1989, releasing two demos also, until deciding to form Immortal.  The band consisted of band members who departed from Amputation and Old Funeral, though remaining members of Old Funeral attempted to keep the band alive, though eventually dissolved before Immortal's first demo releases.
Immortal's early full-length releases were of a traditional black metal style, but their acclaimed album At the Heart of Winter saw the band begin to experiment with a complex fusion of black metal and German thrash metal. The resulting sound was a style which characterized Immortal's later works. Immortal has been influential to many modern metal artists. It has arguably maintained the most occult-mysticism image and way of life traditionally credited to black metal although the band is not Satanic, unlike several black metal bands who may leave it open to discussion or admit to being Satanic.