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Love him or hate him, Ildjarn’s music is sure to evoke an emotional response. Norway’s angriest son recorded three full-lengths of unrelenting black metal during the early 90s, including the appropriately named Strength And Anger. Seeing a re-release by Season Of Mist in 2013, Ildjarn is as much as ever an antithesis to listener-friendly black metal. The son of the north star will probably never reach an audience outside of the self-professed underground cult, but an examination of his music is still in order.
Dissecting Strength And Anger is a futile effort, as the constant onslaught of horribly distorted riffs and cruelly brutal production can be a challenging experience. At its core, the album can be divided into two sections. The first 15 tracks, all imaginatively titled “Strength And Anger”, are raw black metal in the most basic sense. A blitzkrieg of simple chords and misanthropic blastbeats, the songs tend to blend into each other in a occasionally hypnotic matter. Taking cues from the least refined Burzum-material, Ildjarn is a minimalist take on chaotic black metal. Historical importance aside, this album will be nearly impenetrable for the first-time listener. Give it enough time though (the album is almost 80 minutes long), and the raging torrent of freezing black metal might grow on you.
The final three tracks on Strength And Anger could be seen as a transition piece in Ildjarn’s discography. Departing from the intensity of his earlier material, the “Hate Meditation” tracks span over 30 minutes and burrow into more ponderous dark ambient territory. In typical Ildjarn-fashion, it’s dark ambient in a very loose sense of the term. With only a handful of prolonged keys and samples stretched across 15 minutes each, with a short instrumental interlude, these tracks are highly monotonous and demand patience. It’s still drenched in dissonance befitting Ildjarn’s eremitic character, but presents some degree of solace after the preceding 45 minutes of eardrum-abuse.
As I'm reviewing this album back to back with the reissue of Forest Poetry, a summarizing comparison feels appropriate. Whereas both albums are packed with extremely harsh black metal violence, the aforementioned contains an overall better collection of tracks. Strength And Anger is still a fine display of just how raw the genre can become without being completely unlistenable, but is sure to seriously test the endurance of anyone but the hardcore devotee.
Written for The Metal Observer
The world of black metal is a unique place indeed. Many phenomenon happen in the black metal world that would be impossible in any other music scene. In the deepest level of the black metal underground you'll find fans who not only enjoy the music, but use it as a way to build their self image. The scene becomes a game where fans seek out albums based on their obscurity rather than quality. Owning obscure and inaccessible albums becomes a badge of street cred to be proudly worn. This is where Ildjarn comes in.
The band dates back to the dawn of the Scandinavian scene. You'd think that this would be another gem in the discography of old Norwegian black metal. Yes you might think that, but if you did you'd be completely wrong. In the early 90's when all the Norwegian kids were forming their own bands and creating modern black metal, Ildjarn wanted so desperately to play with them. Unfortunately for him he didn't have a shred of talent.
So let's pop this sucker in and see what it sounds like. Okay, right off the bat I'm assaulted and insulted by a one note song. Yes, you read that right. It consists of one fucking note. A very twangy, lightly distorted guitar strums a single power chord over a sloppily played blast beat. Over it are distorted black metal vocals. This is the template for every song on the album. On some of the other tracks he gets daring and attempts two or three power chords per song, but the drum beat remains the same throughout. The sound quality sounds similar to a rehearsal recorded from a single microphone in the center of the room. There is nothing else to say about the music. If one single twanging note sounds appealing to you then you might like this album.
The most shocking thing about this album is that black metal enthusiasts will try to convince you that this is some deep, profound work of art. If you're one of elite who praises this album, you really have to ask yourself a few questions. If you're willing to worship an album that consists of poorly recorded, one note songs, where are you willing to draw the line? If this is good, then what is bad? The recording quality couldn't sound much worse. The songwriting couldn't be worse. The musicianship could hardly be worse.
If this is good, then bad music does not exist.
Don't get me wrong, I love black metal, and I'm mostly a listener of raw black metal, or 1st wave. But, that doesn't mean I have to follow the trend of "Trv Kvlt bla bla" teenage bullshit. People have to understand that there is good music and bad music in every style. Developing an experienced enough ear gave me the ability to have a good opinion about what is good and what is not really good.
This stuff is total crap, it is the sound of a farting crocodile. I only gave this record a 2% for 2 reasons; tracks 1-15 are all called "Strength and Anger", which I find to be a cool idea, second, because I actually heard a change in the album from "tssshhhshshs" to "ttsfffff rrrrrrrrr" on track 16, and I couldn't believe it, so I gave a mark for that, how generous.
This album is 1 hour and 13 minutes made of nothing but noise, noise and noise, you can't even tell what the music sounds like due to the supreme recording quality. I seriously don't know how musicians have the guts to release such material. And I find it weirder to see people giving the album reviews like 90% or, even worse; a 100% .. They must be sarcastic, they must be kidding!!!
To end this glorious review, I can say, that if you truly appreciate good and mindful music, then this record is not for your. If you like to follow trends, and keep insisting that black metal should sound like deep fried shit, then I totally encourage to buy this record and nourish your soul.
Between Ildjarn's self-titled, Forest Poetry and this we have three top notch raw black metal albums with little change in style. While many modern bands have attempted to replicate this style or use a similarly minimalist and straightforward approach, very few have had the substance to pull it off. Most of the bands intentionally trying to be hard and old school just turn out gay, so you have to look to a small number of artists to give you the raw stuff done properly.
It's very easy to put together songs only using a few chords, intentionally poor production and not much in the way of musicianship or lyrical creativity. However, when done right a minimalist, raw, harsh and intense sound can work out perfectly. Ildjarn's sound is thick and full, the distortion creates a haze, and repitition has a trance-like effect. The riffs, while simple, are well written for their purpose.
The riffs are mid-paced, simplistic and punky, with dissonant sounding chords and huge amounts of fuzz. The bass generally follows the same riffs as the guitar, occasionally altering a bit. The bass sound is heavy and harsh with quickly strummed notes. On some occasions the guitar will take a simplistic lead part doing a repetitive melody on higher notes (somewhat similar to the kind of "solos" Von had, but more integrated because of the flurry of distortion.) The drums are extremely simplistic, rarely departing from one fast-to-midpaced beat (a beat very common to old school black metal) or a more punky beat. Finally the vocals are no different from any other Ildjarn release. Basically screams that are slightly lower than usual, more or less matching the tone of the music rather than screeching.
All in all this is typical of the three main Ildjarn releases. It's raw, harsh, simplistic, punky and has a distinctly dull tone with everything falling into a solid fuzz. Ildjarn, Forest Poetry and Strength and Anger are the most important of Ildjarn's releases, however the demos and EPs that share the black metal sound are also good. Ildjarn's style didn't change much for their black metal releases, and it's exactly the type of pure raw sound I want. Fuck the symphonic, melodic, progressive, and "post-black metal" bands for the most part. The best type of black metal is the raw and simplistic (when done right). With Ildjarn there really is no single release to jump into, so if you're interested get all three of Ildjarn's main albums. But beware of the "ambient" stuff that was under the same name. It's pretty much the same folly as Burzum's last two albums (annoying minimalistic synths, nothing resembling black metal, and ultimately a bore to listen to).
Also, fuck the people who bash this and other Ildjarn releases for being too raw, harsh and repetitive. Get a pair of balls, Sally.
Ildjarn, aside from his ambient work, was always known as a misanthropic kinda loner in the Norwegian black metal scene. He only had a few people (such as Ihsahn and Samoth of Emperor) help him out and it seems he mostly kept to himself. But what did he hide all to himself? If his albums are any clue to his inner being, Vidar must've been one really angry guy!
Ildjarn's black metal albums are kinda hard to describe, and even when I try to, I don't think my words would do the work justice. Take the rawness and production of the lowest, filthiest Les Legiones Noires (Black Legions) bands from France, and mix it with some of the punk/oi elements of the mighty NS black metal juggernaut Absurd, and that's a vague idea of what Ildjarn's metal albums sound like. Really distorted guitars, fast repetetive drums, inaudible bass and really wrathful vocals, and riffs that repeat over and over. That's basically the Ildjarn formula. And it's worked out pretty well so far.
I've heard most of Ildjarn's full length metal albums except the S/T, and from what I've heard I must say that Strength and Anger is by far the rawest of the raw. It's even rawer and angrier than albums like Det Frysende Nordariket and Forest Poetry. Those albums had a very angry and raw atmosphere to them, and they also invoked images of Norway's dark natural wonders. Strength and Anger does none of that, and is simply like having your body smashed by a Panzer tank! Total annihilation of the audio senses!
Standout songs? NONE! You know why? Because this album should be digested as a whole. Although I can discern every song, to the untrained ear, it must all sound the same. And it kind of does sometimes! What I'm trying to say is, all the songs are great and of equal value and importance. But if I had to pick a favorite it would be Chapters 8 and 9 or 8, 9 and 10 in the re-issue. I've both the original and the Japanese re-issue. The only difference between the two is that in the Japanese re-issue they took out the two 15 minute or so ambient songs and cut track 8 into two different tracks, making 17 songs/chapters. The original only had 15 "chapters", 2 ambient tracks and "Interchange (which is the last song on the Jap-version)."
I never listen to the 2 ambient songs, but this album's metal material is so good that by themselves, they would make a perfect album minus the two ambient tracks (hence, the Japanese version).
All in all, honestly, this is not an album I can recommend to even black metal fans. There will always be those who say Ildjarn is a talentless, sloppy musician, but I beg to differ. This is not music meant for casual listening. You will either love it or hate it. There are probably some imitators of this kind of black metal nowadays, but for me, this is the standard, the masterpiece of this style of black metal. This is raw, primitive and hateful black metal at its best. If you can stand the repetitiveness and the awful production, buy this CD. If not, don't even dare to find it.
Ah, Ildjarn. Probably the most caustic and ‘unlistenable’ of black metal projects from Norway. Once, Ildjarn was part of the death metal band Thou Shalt Suffer, together with Ihsahn and Samoth. After that band broke up Ildjarn went his own direction, literally the complete opposite of what his former bandmates would do with Emperor. Although there is quite a lot of variation between his various releases, the basic core of all Ildjarn material consists of short bursts of maniacal, punkish powerchording, with the bass-guitar usually in the lead, underpinned by Ildjarn viciously pounding away on his drum-set, recorded in the most abominable fashion.
This recording would be Ildjarn’s final black metal material before turning into a full-time ambient-project and it’s basically the ultimate expression of rabid anger, the pure, black hatred of his earlier material comes to complete fruition here. This is, to put it simply, the perfect Ildjarn album as well as the most consistent and conceptually pure of his works.
The title Strength and Anger, along with the distorted cover picture of a snarling man-beast is perfectly representational of this disc.
The first half is made up of fifteen tracks between one to four minutes, entitled Strength and Anger I – XV, and the material here is completely mesmerising in its intensity. Streams of violent drumming underscore completely infectious riffs which change direction about two to three times during these short bursts, making for surprisingly varied songs. The amount of reverb and distortion is through the roof, further adding to the disgusting nature of the sounds produced while adding a whole ambiental musical layer of its own. Ildjarn’s voice sounds harsh and completely unintelligable when it appears on the first few tracks, before disappearing almost completely on the later tracks. These later tracks, aside from being largely instrumental, also show the more experimental side of Ildjarn, where the soundlevels, general background noise and the amount of distortion are continually altered making the listener experience all the various facets of the one emotion channeled through this release; anger. Indeed, this is probably the most effective record I have ever heard that’s capable of sending me into a homicidal rage, with the black metal songs becoming progressively more disgusting, angry and inhuman. Of note are the final tracks of the first half, which are redone versions of the first few tracks, sans vocals but with an added level of guitar-noise which make them sound even more hateful than the original versions.
This maniacal progression of black fury lasts about forty minutes, the hypnotic chords fully drawing out the primal beast within. But this is just the first half. For then the second ambient part Black Anger (Hate Meditation) starts and this is, unbelievably enough, even more effective in putting one in a violently insane mindset. After the body has tired of the draining black metal parts and one sits down to listen to the quiet second half of this disc, the mind has become receptive to the insidious drones and dark sounds which will seep into the unconscious, altering the state of mind even further. Truly, Hate Meditation perfectly describes this part. The abruptly shifting drones set the mind on edge, creating paranoia and frustation, the body ready to lash out at anything living that might be near. While the black metal tracks serve to create the seed of anger, these ambient parts nourish it, causing it to flower into the Black Anger after which they are named. It is this part that makes one want to rip out peoples throats with one’s teeth, to gnaw on their marrow and shove one’s thumbs through their eyes. I can feel it even now while listening to it. Finally tension is relieved through a short black metal Interchange after which the second part of Hate Meditation winds down with one oscillating note, slowly bringing one back into the real world.
This is the ultimate expression of true, unadulterated hatred in the black ambient metal world. Many people will not be able to stomach this, which is as it should be.
Try at your own risk.