Today is a day where people in far colder regions globally laugh at us on the East Coast of the United States. It was scheduled to be at least 2 degrees Fahrenheit the day this is to run, with an overnight low of -9. OK, go ahead and laugh at us, Western Canadians, Norwegians, Russians, and anyone else who sees these numbers and chuckles.
OK, so we’re not quite as good as handling these conditions (the courts are scheduled to be closed because it’s too cold … the courts!), and when they do happen, we kind of don’t know what to do. Stupidly. So it’s pretty great that we have a new record from Iskald to discuss today, as this is a band that knows something about grim, frostbitten, cracked, and bleeding. Yeah, they embrace the inclement weather (their name translates of “ice cold” after all) and all-around deep freeze, and they pay homage to that on their new album “Nedom og Nord,” their fourth full-length effort. They looked to the northernmost regions of Norway, the Arctic regions that have enveloped their lives, and used that to influence this album, one of their frostiest–and most interesting musically–to date.
Iskald also decided to branch out their sound even more on their deadly journey “Nedom og Nord,” playing more with atmospherics and letting their songs breathe and develop more than in the past. That resulted in a record with the least amount of songs yet, as there are six on this new album, but it’s a collection with more realized, though sometimes meandering treks, and it easily can mesmerize you like staring at a snowstorm slamming down as you try to drive a car at night on poorly lit roads. It’s equally enthralling and frightening as you drown in isolation.
Iskald is the vision of two men who have been behind the helm since their formation in 2005, that being Simon Larsen (vocals, guitars, bass, and keyboards) and Aage Andre Krekling (drums). They are joined by two other members live–guitarist Ben Hansen and bassist Kenneth Henriksen–but the musical vision on this album and their others are all theirs, so you have them to blame if you feel like you’re shivering and quaking when hearing these songs. Opinions are sure to vary on their new approach to the music, but you’ll have that anytime you change up your DNA. But it sounds like these guys really have their heart in this new direction, which really helps drive forth this new era. And truth be told, I like the expanded sound a lot.
Our adventure begins with “A Fading Horizon,” that gets the record off to a spellbinding start, as they conjure up sounds that might make you feel like you’re stuck in a whirling vortex. The vocals are gruff as usual, the song makes nice use of violent thrashing even while it’s trying to set a mood over its 7:04 run time, and the leads are razor sharp, cutting through the thick ice into your soul. “Underworldly” kicks off with strong melodies, which is a regular trait on this album, and just minutes into the cut, it erupts into blistering black metal that gallops and crushes your puny lungs gasping for breath. The music easily can sweep you away, but it always grabs you and batters you, with the blood freezing almost as soon as it boils through the surface of your skin. It sometimes feels a little long, but lengthy excursions can be that way at times and it never detracts from the overall effectiveness of the track. That leads us to “Iskald,” of course named for the band, and it’s a perfect anthem for them with prog-fueled black metal, some sections that feel like modern Opeth, a strong mix of clean beauty and metallic devastation, and a final passage that’s purely acoustic and makes it feel like you’re disappearing into a fog. Good cut.
“The Silence” brings back the punishment, as it’s crushing pretty much throughout its duration, with Larsen howling lines such as, “I am the torment,” and, “I bring the darkness,” over music that makes sure that message hits home. This is the darkest, crunchiest track on the whole record and should satisfy anyone’s penchant for brutality. “Nidingsdad” follows with a sprawling, air-filled opening that quickly is sucked into an explosion of blasts, menacing devastation, and a total outburst of black metal violence that provides that deep helping of warmth you need to unfreeze your cells. This is nasty, stomping, and even when some cleaner vocals come in to provide texture, a song that’ll leave bruises on your body. Finally, the title track returns to the melody and epicness heard earlier in the record, and at the risk of beating a frozen dead horse, brings a blast of winter back into the picture. There are some cleaner sections here, that work nicely to change the pace when it needs to, smoldering heaviness, and eventually the song fades slowly into the night, as you watch its figure disappear down a long, dark path.
Iskald should provide plenty of wonder for me through the remainder of the winter, as the two coldest months are upon us, and they always give Immortal a run for their money when it comes to truly conveying the pain and misery of frozen terrain. “Nedom og Nord” is their most realized work to date and perhaps an indication as to where Iskald will travel in the future. If that’s the case, I’m certainly along for the ride, no matter how many layers of clothing I’ll need to wear.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/iskaldofficial
For more on the label or to buy the album, go here: http://www.indierecordings.no/