Iskald are the latest Norwegian band to make its way into my review inbox. My ancestry is of course half Norwegian with my father hailing from the beautiful city of Bergen, so it all makes sense.
For those that don't know much about this lot, they come from Bodo in the north of the country and have been around for close to ten years.
Two winters have passed since the release of 'The Sun I Carried Alone', Iskald's previous record that saw the light of day in February 2011. As all their releases, this as well received critical acclaim and great feedback from fans all over the world. For two years, they have been writing their latest opus. Finally, on the third winter, they return with their fourth full-length effort, 'Nedom og Nord'.
Article continues below...
The title of the album is a play on words in the Norwegian language so much the same as a football World Cup winning parade, has no relevance here.
This is their first Norwegian entitled album, in which half of the lyrics are based on their mother-tongue. And their self-titled song 'Iskald' was finished and put on the new record. It's a monumental hymn dedicated to the surroundings and people of their home; Nordland.
'Nedom og Nord' is their tribute to the northern parts of Norway, with the arctic surroundings that has always a part of their lives. In both a good and bad way.
So to the tracks. First up is 'A Fading Horizon'. Meaty guitars, menacing, prowling with a dark message kick things off, drums coming in to pull the track along, hammering through it as if forged from Mjollnir itself (that's Thor's hammer if you didn't know), though never taking over.
The tempo of the guitar changes very early in the song, and it is nice to see a little adventure in the musical make up of the song. Vocals, throaty, sincere, compulsive perfectly sitting in the song, this is an impressive beginning.
There is more than one tempo change, something not always present with this breed of musician and the shifts are almost seamless. Superb stuff.
Time to search for Hades and give 'Underworldly' a blast. Kicking off in the same power drumming infected vein, guitars melodious and powerful, vocals kicking in, intense and ferocious, before the guitars get even bigger. The mood of the song and musical content transfer the atmosphere to your inner most fibre with very little effort, extraordinarily powerful sentiments, the true essence of musical communication.
Now for a little self titlement and the track 'Iskald', and it certainly is ice cold where they come from. Sang in Norwegian, another very powerful song. Drums again at the forefont of proceedings, guitars managing to be both uplifting and sombre simultaneously, talk of mixed messages.
In case you think that is a criticism, it is far from it – in a word its structure is brilliant, thoughtful and inspiring (yes I know that is three words).
More tempo changes, guitars shifting from a horde of angry berzerkers to thoughtful muse then back again, almost a military feel at some points and I can honestly say you are never sure which direction the song is going it, superb stuff, full of traditional black metal injected with catchy melody and even a little pomp. There is even a hymn quality to it.
So to 'The Silence'. Worry not your headbanging barnets, silence is not a literal description. The heaviest and blackest of the tracks so far, this one definitely appeals to the black metal aficinados and is more straight down the middle in that respect. It is a good song and true to that genre but to my ears, after being spoiled with the musical mastery of the three previous tracks, it doesn't quite elevate itself to the higher echelons.
'Nidingsdåd' is next in line. The song title comes from old Norse and a term used to describe an act so heinous that even the Vikings thought it was bad and as we all know that took quite some doing (yes I am very proud of my ancestor's slightly raucous behaviour). Now the linguistics are sorted, how does the music stack up? Well it certainly isn't heinous.
Where the last track was more than enough fodder for the out and out headbanger, this one is more of a thinking man's head crunching recipe. It is similar to 'The Silence' in as much as it is packed full of more of the traditional straight at your throat elements associated with the genre, but it also has an edge to it, almost setting it apart from the norm. A good track, not on a par with the self titled track but still a good piece of musicianship.
The album closer is the title track 'Nedom og Nord'. As you can tell, another one in their native tongue. Going back to the theme of more melodic and multi layered black metal, there are more big and loud guitar intros, shifting gear, drums again powering the engine. A well crafted track and leaving you with a good memory of the band.
So that is it, six tracks, the album coming in at fourty-nine minutes. For some, they may all be a little longer than the average song in the genre but that is how this album has been written.
As drummer Aage Krekling explained: "It's has been a long and hard working process to get this record realized, but in the end it turned out as we hoped for. We are extremely satisfied with 'Nedom og Nord' and believe it is our best album to date.
"After the last album we talked about trying something new, both music and production wise. We wanted to focus more on the feeling and mood in our songs, without losing our defined expression. We did not focus too much on the technical elements and wrote longer and more atmospheric songs."
From that perspective the band has done a damn fine job and as much as they may not have focused on the technical elements, the irony is that has allowed their technical and songwriting expertise to shine through. The most impressive part though is that this album crosses between sub genres in rock whilst keeping faith with the black metal roots so associated with Norway.
I can't deny I love the fact that half of me comes from over the North sea – we had Amundsen, not Scott for starters – and this lot are another reason for me to love it even more.
Simon Larsen - Guitars/bass/vocals
Aage Krekling – Drums
Ben Hansen - Live guitarist
Kenneth Henriksen - Live bassist
2007 Shades of Misery - Indie Recordings
2008 Revelations of Reckoning Day - Indie Recordings
2011 The Sun I Carried Alone - Indie Recordings