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Truly an epic experience - 92%

Opinionated_Metaller, April 6th, 2015

Confession time: I've never been much of a black metal person. Yes, I understand that not every band fits the common stereotypes of the subgenre. It's just that I haven't found that many bands that have managed to sustain my interest. The material that I do like is quite hard to find, so that's another reason why I don't listen to a lot of black metal. However, all that changed when I found Ildra's debut album "Eðelland".

Ildra conjures up an epic, engrossing atmosphere that fits the Anglo-Saxon time period that the lyrics depict. The atmosphere is enhanced by the four acoustic instrumentals found in the album. Also contributing to the atmosphere are the sound effect samples used in tracks 5 (crashing waves) and 6 (sounds of battle). Track 6 has an eerie-sounding riff somewhere in the middle that gives us a different kind of atmosphere, but still fits with the overall atmosphere of the album.

The guitar work on the album is very well done. The riffs are very solid, and the subtle melodies found in them match the epic feel of the album. The solos are also well-played, ranging from simple melodic passages to full-out shredding. The bass is audible, but sticks mostly to one-note backing lines matching the chord progression. Acoustic guitars are used not only in the instrumentals, but also in the main songs. Their presence does not hinder the quality of the songs. Instead, it enhances the atmosphere and gives a folk-ish slant to the rest of the album that the instrumental tracks wouldn't accomplish by themselves.

The only problems I have with this album are the mediocre drumming and the medium to slow pacing. Drums in black metal are known to produce a wall of sound that pulls the listener in and doesn't let them escape. However, I didn't really get that feeling when listening to the drumming on this album. The pace of this album is also a bit too slow for my liking. The only really fast-paced part is on track 8. However, that track is 10 minutes long with multiple rhythm changes, most of which stay in that medium to slow tempo present throughout the rest of the album.

Despite the two drawbacks, "Eðelland" is an excellent album. It's a great album for people who want to get into black metal but don't know where to start, as well as longtime fans of the subgenre who want something a little different from what they're used to.

The new Pagan elite - 90%

BloodAndValour, February 3rd, 2014

ILDRA is an English band that is classified as Pagan Black Metal. By the year 2011, the "Pagan/Folk Metal" genre had already become oversaturated with bands obsessed with clichés and fail to make any connection on a deeper level to the subjects they write songs about. The typical run of the mill “pagan metal” band thinks that being a pagan means writing songs about Valhalla and drinking mead while wearing medieval tunics in promo photos. While all of this might make for a good show, it doesn’t have much of anything to do with paganism, and the fact is most members of these bands are not even pagans. Just take a look at some of the most highly regarded bands in the genre. The Faroese band Týr has said in interviews that they are trying to spread “atheism through mythology” and apparently think having songs with titles such as “Hold the Heathen Hammer High” is a great way of fighting religion (and somehow, they hold the opinion that religious pagans are confused about reality). Ensiferum have said they don’t believe in anything “superstitious”, and Heidevolk once laughed at the idea of anyone who ‘actually’ believes in Thor. While these bands admire the old ways and base their entire musical endeavors around the way of life of their ancestors, they seem to think they understand the world better than their foolish, childish ancestors who were delusional enough to worship Odin and Thor. These bands are born in the age of science (which is possibly the most monotheistic religion of all, but that’s another conversation) and while they have a respect for the pagan way of life, they are not completely on board. I understand atheism and I even respect it, and I enjoy some of the aforementioned bands. But I am more of a fan of things that are completely sincere, genuine, and real. ILDRA is a band that doesn’t just touch the surface of the Anglo-Saxon way of life, they embody it through strong and powerful Metal that has a clear and deep focus on their first full length album Eðelland.

Musically the band has been compared to middle-era GRAVELAND (the post Thousand Swords sound), but I don’t really see much in common between the two. That era of GRAVELAND consisted of extremely Folk inspired guitar riffs and melodies that were removed from any form of rock/metal, with strange rhythmic drum patterns also rooted in folk music that were unlike any other Metal band. In other words, I see that era of GRAVELAND as Folk music inspired by Metal. ILDRA on the other hand is Metal inspired by Folk music. While this comparison is highly overused, the primary influence is of course Viking era BATHORY. There are no blast beats on the album, but the drumming has the massive, orchestral, almost timpani like feeling that Quorthon established in the Hammerheart era after being inspired by Scott Columbus of MANOWAR. There are plenty of aggressive and classic headbanging riffs throughout the album, similar to the main riff in “For a Fallen One” by another BATHORY inspired Greek band ZEMIAL. Just listen to the first minute of track two “Rice Æfter Oðrum” and you will know what I’m referring to. It becomes instantly apparent that this is a band playing with power and conviction, unlike the happy-go-lucky Folk Metal bands who take the worst aspects of Power Metal and somehow make them even more cheerful and annoying. There are four instrumental tracks on the album, consisting of traditional instruments such as acoustics and frame drums. All of the instrumental tracks have a great feeling and are not filler by any means, they set the tone for the album and offer a nice transition between the Metal songs. Many of the Metal tracks also include acoustic guitars, but these sections are never overdone. The vocals on this album are also executed in a very powerful manner, and there are also narrations throughout the songs which gives the album a skaldic feeling. While there is a sense of darkness and the shadows of the past in every song, overall the music is not excessively dark and offers a nostalgic and almost warm feeling that perfectly coincides with the cover art of an English mountainside and sky. Do not let the ‘warm’ reference mislead you, I simply mean that the music itself gives you the feeling that is connected to the natural elements, much like the masterpiece Autumn Aurora by DRUDKH. The end result is an album that successfully mixes Metal with folk music and creates a genuine modern day pagan atmosphere.

One of the most impressive aspects of this album is that the lyrics are written entirely in Old English. By creating an album completely composed in the language of the Anglo-Saxon era, ILDRA truly puts the listener into a frame of mind from this amazing age in history. The album itself also comes with translations of each song into modern English, and references many important things from Anglo-Saxon history and heathen lore. The song “Hrefnesholt (Dæl I)” references the Battle of Ravenwood as related in the epic poem Beowulf. “Ofer Hwælweg we Comon” which translates to “Over the Whaleroad We Came” is directly inspired by the accounts of the historian Bede, the “father of English history”. The lyrics describe the Saxons crossing the whaleroad (whaleroad is a kenning for “the sea” which appears in Anglo-Saxon and Old Norse poetry) to the homeland of the Britons and the brothers Hengest and Horsa, who lead the Anglo-Saxon armies to victory. “Swa Cwæð se Eardstapa” is based on verses from the epic poem The Wanderer (a poem which J.R.R. Tolkien borrowed from in The Two Towers, when Aragorn sings a song of Rohan). Aside from the lyrics and themes, the album itself is full of Anglo-Saxon art. The logo is written in Futhorc runes, with a decoration of interlaced dogs that is taken from the Lindisfarne Gospels. The booklet contains more images from the Lindisfarne Gospels and wonderful paintings of Anglo-Saxon homes. The CD itself has the image of the god Tiw with two wolves that is taken from ornately crafted jewelry from the Sutton Hoo burial site. The presentation of the album, the Old English language, and the references to the history, art, literature and lore of the Anglo-Saxon people proves that ILDRA have completely immersed themselves in the way of life of their ancestors for this project.
While other bands are more concerned with wearing expensive chainmail for promo photos than following the old ways, ILDRA do not give any information about the members of the band. In fact, I’m unsure how many people are even involved in the project. The band itself exists for the sole purpose of celebrating all that is Anglo-Saxon through intense, powerful Black Metal. I consider Eðelland the best Anglo-Saxon Metal album I’ve yet to hear, even surpassing the greatness of their peers in the excellent band FOREFATHER. Anyone with an interest in Pagan Black Metal that isn’t concerned with useless clichés and truly explores heathen subject matter should give this album a listen, I can’t recommend it enough.

Originally written for Dreyrugr Metal Reviews

ILDRA: "Eðelland" - 70%

skaven, March 11th, 2012

It seems that United Kingdom has recently shaped up when it comes to epic and folky black metal, Wodensthrone being a great example of that with their 2009 album Loss, and now there’s Ildra and their major debut Eðelland offering adventurous 50 minutes of noble pagan metal, not far from the previously mentioned band nor Graveland’s latter era.

Eðelland sounds full in all aspects: the production is rich, distorted guitars having enough strength and the acoustic ones a natural, woody sound - most audible on the various acoustic interludes all around the album. These short passages have, in fact, grown to be my favourite pieces of the album, perhaps because they lack the minor glitches of the metal on the record: namely, programmed drums. Luckily, it’s done pretty tastefully and undisturbingly, so do not expect to hear any lame, mechanized sounds on Eðelland. This is authentic music after all, not hindered even by a drum machine.

Compositionally, Eðelland is nicely varied, moods shifting from proud joy to mesmerizing melancholy. I can’t say I understand much of the screams (I suppose the lyrics are in Old English as are the song titles) but it goes well hand in hand with the music. There are some moments that I would remove from the album, such as the sudden happy guitar soloing on ”Swa Cwæð se Eardstapa”, but for the most part, Eðelland is laden with consistently good material, hence deserving a favorable score.

As said, the overall impression of the album, including both music and the beautiful cover art, is largely positive: the infant label Sonnenrune Records haven’t started their career with any worthless material, that’s for sure (the previously reviewed Sferslav EP backing up this argument). Eðelland is an evocative piece of music that might not move mountains with originality yet still is a fresh breeze from medieval English landscapes. Definitely worth checking out if you are into the two names mentioned earlier or any similar bands.

3.5 / 5
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Ildra - Edelland - 94%

Memnarch, February 10th, 2012

Not a whole lot is known about this mysterious ensemble from England. Ildra happen to be one of the very few black metal bands who sing in the ancient Anglo Saxon language. A number of bands recently have dipped their toes into ancient English history, most notably those such as Winterfylleth, Forefather and the only other one who I can think of who recorded a full album in Anglo-Saxon, Ealdulf. None have really delved into it though to the extent which Ildra have here on “Edelland”. It’s a welcome variation from the usual ancestral European pagan and celtic beliefs and a window into a history that seldom gets any attention at all in the metal scene.

The music itself is a lot more black metal focused than Forefather though, there is a significant mid-period Graveland influence throughout the structure of the material here, and not to forget also a large “Hammerheart” influence to proceedings as well. This is none more obvious than in the vast meandering instrumental passages to many of the songs; the dense surging riffing and the booming coarse vocals driven by the warlike pounding on the drums give the music a real presence of triumph. On top of this there is also that weathered organic sound constantly existent throughout, augmented frequently by some rather illustrious work on the acoustic guitar.

The first proper track, ‘Kingdom After Kingdom’ bursts in with aplomb, like some ancient British war hymn laced with the undulating riffs and thunderous drumming. The vocalist could just as well be the commander barking orders to his men. The accented delivery of the Old English lyrics certainly adds a certain grit to the overall spirit of things. The same could pretty much be said for the rest of the metal tracks here, and the frequent marriage of acoustic and electric guitar passages is incredible, and keeps everything sounding sharp. On top of this “Edelland” is also woven with frequent tact lead work, which can be difficult to achieve in black metal. Few bands can pull it off as well as this.

Most of the songs contain extensive brooding instrumental sections which accentuate that earthen, triumphant atmosphere to such an extent it’s pouring out your ear holes. And on the subject if instrumentals, this album has quite a few breaking up the main songs so to speak, and for once on a black metal album they complement the overall multi dimensional atmosphere perfectly, stirring that already present tempestuous air further. They pretty much sound like some arcane war tune with their acoustic melodies and menacing drum work.

Some of the rhythms do have a tendency to repeat themselves at times, you’ll be thinking “Did I not hear that riff before?” but thankfully this is only a minor gripe as it doesn’t occur too often to be a major problem. “Edelland” is an extremely mature and accomplished piece of work. It brings a certain degree of welcome inspiration and freshness to an area of black metal which is sorely missing something like this of late. Fans of Winterfylleth and Graveland need this, because while Graveland have released some seminal albums, they also have the habit at times of sounding very contrived, especially these days, “Edelland” can easily stand on its own two feet against the best of the genre. And to be totally honest on this evidence, Ildra aren’t light years away from making a “Thousand Swords” themselves. This will be a tough one to match not just by IIldra themselves, but by anyone aiming to ply their trade in this area.