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Isengard is the now legendary Fenriz’s old, long-defunct folk black metal side project. However, this was truer during the band’s later years and releases. Here, at the very beginning, is the Spectres over Gorgoroth demo.
Released in 1989, this sounds more like the Darkthrone death metal demos than anything resembling actual black metal, let alone folk black metal. The music is incredibly raw death metal, most resembling the Land of Frost and Thulcandra demos. Additionally, the whole thing is pretty damn short, clocking at only about 11 and a half minutes for 5 tracks.
The actual music is pretty fucking good: pure old-school death metal with an atmosphere too morbid for black metal. The old-school sound is especially helped by the production, which is both raw yet incredibly thick, in the way that many death metal demos seem to sound. The great thing is that the instrumentation is already fully developed and it’s evident that the listener is dealing with a competent band. The guitar riffs are exceptionally good and memorable, if occasionally a little buried because of the production, while the drumming is pretty good but truly hampered by the production sound and sometimes being too loud in the mix, drowning out the excellent riffs. The bass can be heard loudly enough and works well with the rest of the music, while the vocals are Fenriz’s rather strange mix of yells, grunts and growls. While eclectic and sometimes bizarre sounding, his efforts work very well with the rest of the music. All in all, every single element works well together to form an unmistakeable old-school death metal atmosphere that sounds immature but purely authentic.
Spectres over Gorgoroth is an overlooked yet essential view in the early career of Fenriz, and is interesting not only in the context of Isengard’s music but also with Darkthrone, as the music here is very similar to the demos released by Darkthrone around the same time. Since acquiring the original is most likely very difficult at best, most interested parties will acquire this demo as part of the Vinterskugge compilation.