Admittedly, I don’t know a whole lot about black metallers Iskald. My knowledge of Norwegian black metal has been most largely relegated to the early stuff, as later Swedish and French black metal are very pretty shiny things to become distracted by. I knew of Iskald, but hadn’t really ever sat down and listened to them until now, and I have to say, they are a breath of fresh air considering that a lot of later Norwegian stuff is… well, not the best.
According to Encyclopedia Metallum, Iskald is “blackened thrash”. I suppose that’s true in a way, although Iskald’s version of blackened thrash draws on many different influences. In their guitar melodies they remind me a lot of Windir, which means I am feeling a lot of classical influence in this album. Also, at times, they sprinkle in some stylings that I am used to associating with Swedish black metal, like guitar solos. That’s super cool, as it means that they are not limiting themselves in their influences and are instead focusing on creating really kickass black metal.
This latest album, “Nedom og Nord”, opens up with “A Fading Horizon”, starting off with a traditionally cold black metal riff and slowly building into a flurry of broken chords and blast beats. Honestly, I feel as though this may be the most straightforward song on the album, which incorporates influences from all sorts of aspects of the genre. As standard as it is, I find the old feel of tremolo picking with blast beats comforting, and this song provides a nice homage to black metal’s past.
I mentioned above that in places, Iskald reminds me of Windir; The third track on this album, “Iskald”, provides a perfect example of this (I love when bands have songs that are the name of the band. It’s like they’re writing their own theme song). The moving parts in this track interact beautifully with one another, the counterpoint reminding me of a baroque fugue. Also, the melody and counter-melody are gorgeous and inspiring, giving the song a soaring feel. Every band should have a theme song as good as this one.
“The Silence” introduces more surprises, particularly at about the four minute mark, when the song takes on a stately feel. This majestic passage is one of my favorites on the whole album. It resonates with strength. The last two songs on “Nedom og Nord” pull out even more stops in terms of unconventionality. The key changes and blending of tones along with meter shifts facilitated by excellent drumming keep the listener on his/her toes throughout the lengthy ten minute title track.
The production here does a fantastic job of facilitating the continual shifts of the album. In parts where the tremolo picking drops out, the resulting emptiness echoes in such a way as to sound cold, a fitting result for a band whose name translates to “ice-cold” in English. Particularly artfully done is the mixing on tracks like “Iskald”, which features several moving parts. Despite the complexity of this track, all the instruments are mixed very well, including the dampening of the countermelody to the main melodic phrase, just in the way a pianist might play if performing a baroque piece.
The cover art reflects the music of the album very well. Iskald has produced an album that is undeniably cold and worthy of their name, and the dark shadows and icy blues of the cover reflect that. However, the mountains and frosty plains of the image also create a feeling of majesty and the overwhelming power of nature, themes that are clearly very dear to the hearts of Norwegian black metal musicians.
The more I listen to “Nedom og Nord”, the more I love it. Although I am not very familiar with Iskald’s older output, I have started delving into it some (I’ve listened a little bit to “Revelations of Reckoning Day”, an earlier Iskald album) and am really appreciating what I hear. I was pleasantly surprised to discover this kind of depth and originality in a latter-era “blackened thrash” band (if you can call it that. I don’t know about you, but I think of Nifelheim when I think of blackened thrash, and this is nothing like that), and am looking forward to listening to more of Iskald’s work.