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Most diverse release to ever come out of Norway. - 93%

Reaper, October 18th, 2006

The compilation is a collection of the 3 demos put out by Isengard between 1989 and 1993. The first 7 tracks are the Vandreren demo, the next 5 are the Spectres over Gorgoroth demo and the last 4 are the Horizons demo. Each individual demo is different in itself and each individual song structurally varies from one another.

Vinterskugge is yet another album that further inflames my dreams of someday knowing Norwegian as it is filled with ample lyrical content. Isengard offers an album that has by far one of the highest numbers of different genres I’ve heard on one release.

The first song of the album focuses very much on a hypnotic approach by playing the same guitar riff repeatedly, whereas the subsequent song are led in different directions. Track two “Gjennom Skogen til Blåfjellene” varies by taking on a more ambient approach, whereas track three works with interludes of slower and faster progression that emphasize on the raspy black metal vocals; the Darkthrone sound is prevalent most on the third track. The sixth track alternatively approaches from a Folk Metal aspect. The first time Isengard sounds distinctly folk is on this and the next track, “Naglfar” which is also a highlight. The remaining tracks continue in similar fashion until track 8, which is the start of the very first Isengard Demo.

This is a brutal mix of black metal and death/doom metal that sounds like something Beherit’s album “Drawing Down the Moon” would sound like if sped up. The demo is basically a preparation to “A Soulside Journey” that would come out 2 years later and would sound like a polished version of this demo. The most appropriate description of this demo would involve the words raw and primitive. The songs are solid and offer variety to the overall compilation.

The tracks that follow compose the “Horizons” demo. The first track “The Fog (early 1991),” still displays lingering influences of death metal. The next track “Storm of Evil,” however, introduces Fenriz’s distinctive vocals, in English, with a dirty rock & roll influenced tone. The following track then changes it up to a drone doom metal sound, which left me speechless. I have not heard a musical range of this sort in a long time and this compilation is indeed a masterpiece due in part to the array of sounds that make up Isengard. “Horizons” is by far the most intriguing demo, and rightfully is the conclusion which leaves the listener captivated and repeatedly interested. The culmination “Our Lord Will Come,” could not have fit more perfectly. It has an old school doom metal feel to it and focuses on mesmerizing vocals that could be compared to King Diamond’s, when he sang on "King Diamond & Black Rose 20 Years Ago (A Night Of Rehearsal).”

Vinterskugge is a fascinating blend of sounds and is a hint of how much Darkthrone’s discography would vary throughout the years. The rating displays both the feeling towards the sound of each individual song & demo and the overall impression it leaves after you’re done listening to it. It is quite possibly the most diverse release to ever come out of Norway.

I dont get the hype of this release. - 50%

mz_412, September 19th, 2005

Essentially Isengard is a solo outlet for Fenriz (Darkthrone / Storm) giving him room to write music which is not limited by the restrictions of a band. As is to be expected from a member of Darkthrone there is very minimal production standards and a very basic and raw approach to instrumentation. If you are looking for Isengard's definitive release then 'Hostmorke' is what you are looking for, whilst 'Vinterskugge' is a collection of three demos leading up to the release of 'Hostmorke' from 1989, 1991 and 1993. The quality of these three demos are incredibly varied therefore it will be better to examine each one seperately. If you have yet to experience the 'Hostmorke' album then it is recommended to go there first before delving into the very primitave and raw history of Isengard. Upon a flick through the digipack you will see very darkened portraits of a cloaked figure grasping fire-lit torches and a staff in the middle of the woods and sprawling Norse landscapes. This is the perfect visuals for the music which you are about to hear once you press play on the cd player.

Chapter I is Isengard's 'Vandreren' demo from 1993. The songs are varied but is probably the most adequate point from which to compare earlier Isengard demos to 'Hostmorke'. From the beginning we hear folk tunes played on guitar with a very black metal tinge to it. Fenriz sings in a unique clean voice that is very deep, partly operatic. There is obviously a strong connection which Fenriz feels to his Viking heritage. He sings with such a sincere passion and pride as well. The next few songs are all very different to each other and is great to see such variation. 'Gjennom Skogen Til Blaafjellene' is basically two long guitars playing in unison with each other, later joined by keyboard. The connection from Isengard to Darkthrone could not be proved more than with the next song 'Ut I Vannets Dyp Hvor Morket Hviler' which could easily have been a lost track off 'Transilvanian Hunger' with the punishing force and feel of Von's 'Satanic Blood'. We return back into clean vocals next with 'Dommedagssalme', a much slower and doomier piece compared to the rest of his works. After this we hear a drastic shift into MIDI synths with 'In The Halls And Chambers Of Stardust The Crystallic Heavens Open', a very atmospheric and sad piece reminiscent of some of Burzum's ambient works. 'Fanden Lokker Til Stupet (Nytrad)' is another instrumental track with distorted chainsaw guitars playing in mid paced folk structures and the addition of medieval flutes and plenty of splash cymbals. 'Naglfar' closes this chapter with another clean voiced track with dense atmospheric keys and plenty of bass.

Chapter II is a demo from 1989 entitled 'Spectres Over Gorgoroth' and is probably the weakest point on this CD. There is much more of a thrashy death metal edge to it and none of the songs hold much longevity. This chapter is more in line with what Darkthrone were doing at this stage, but nothing which really hints at the future folky direction that Isengard will take. The songs are quite short, clocking in at an average of two minutes. There are basic riffs aplenty and the frequent Celtic Frost influence worming its way in, especially with the grunts coming from Fenriz's mouth during 'Trollwandering;. There is nothing too memorable to say about this demo. There are indeed flaws which are to be expected and no songs really standout, stick in your head or even warrant a second listen. The production on this demo is also incredibly muddy and primitave.

Chapter III is another demo entitled 'Horizons' from 1991 and opens with a slow, crushing and doomy song called 'The Fog' which brings to mind names like Beherit. The vocals are as brutal and intense as one would expect from Fenriz. 'Storm Of Evil' is a large shift in direction, an upbeat track with deep clean vocals and appropriately placed keyboards. At times I hear similarities to punk / deathrock when it comes to the upbeat yet gloomy melodies combined with Fenriz's voice. At times he reminds me of Ian Curtis, late of Joy Division (am I now going to be hung for that one!). 'Storm Of Evil' is intriguing as it shows similarities to later works of Isesngard but isnt instantly recognisable as an Isengard song. 'Bergtrollets Gravferd' is a synth interlude delving into dark dungeon like atmospheres alike early works of Mortiis. Finishing this collection of demos we have a song called 'Our Lord Will Come', another odd recording with vocals thatsound like Fenriz's clean voice sped up slightly. Production is incredibly weak here and sounds dubbed from an old cassette.

'Vinterskugge' is an interesting probe back into the history of such a respected name in Norwegian black metal history. Just look at the number of Darkthrone inspired bands that exist now. This compilation of demos falls very short of the grandeur of 'Hostmorke', however 'Vinterskugge' is more for sentimental value looking back on Fenriz's music career. There are a few brilliant songs on here, and also some second-rate songs. Buy at your own risk, however is a must for Darkthrone obsessee's or those who were spellbound by 'Hostmorke'. Hail Fenriz!

A great compilation - 98%

TheBigDizzle, August 9th, 2004

Here we have the first bigger release from Isengard, Vinterskugge. This was an absolute great idea, to combine the first 3 demos for all to hear. It makes it a lot easier since demos can be hard to get sometimes, hail Fenriz for his great music making.

The first demo 'Vandreren', starts out folky with the title track Vinterskugge, this is a great song, it has some catchy riffs and Fenriz' vocals are great as usual with the operatic sound. It then goes into a good instrumental track which fades out soon after it starts and then comes back in and gets a little more complex, it's a nice track to listen to. The cd then completely changes gears and goes black metal with 'Ut i Vannets dyp Hvor Morket Hviler', this is a good black metal track with the standard black metal riffs and drumming and it is nice to have a variety. The rest of this cd basically follows this trend of going from more folky sounding songs to black metal to folk black metal and instrumentals. It is definetly one of the cd's strengths that it is able to be so diverse that it never gets boring.

All the instrument playing on this cd is fantastic, Fenriz plays every single instrument like a pro, when he plays guitar he uses simple but effective riffs that are catchy and could even get you dancing the odd time. His drumming is pretty standard but it gets the job done and fits the music, this goes the same for the bass too, it's standard, but a great kind of standard.

For Fenriz, the production on this cd is fairly clear. All the instruments are well heard, in comparison to Darkthrone or even the cd that followed this release 'Høstmørke', it is definetly great to be able to hear everything so well.

Fans of Darkthrone or folk black metal would do well to pick this up, when Isengard was active, I believe Isengard was at the top of the genre, Høstmørke was a little better than this, but this is still great none the less, If you can find it, get it.

Primitive genius - 93%

chaossphere, October 2nd, 2003

Compiling three demo's in reverse chronological order, the first Isengard album, despite it's disjointed nature, is one of the most excellent releases to ever emerge from Norway following the post-1991 black metal explosion. Of course, this is the solo project of Darkthrone percussionist/satanic poet Fenriz, so it's not surprising that it's so damn good.

First up, the title track "Vinterskugge" is a trudging, doom-laden epic based around a couple of chugging, morbid riffs and some serious minimalist drumwork, while Herr Nagell croons in his trademark monotone viking-chant in his native tongue. It's catchy as hell, and very reminiscent of classic 80's doom metal with an epic Nordic twist. Then "Gjennom Skogen til Blaafjellene" is a long, guitar-only instrumental (an idea which Judas Iscariot would later capitalize on to great effect), which maintains the killer atmosphere through serious manipulation of simplicity. There is absolutely no sign of technical wizardry here, just simple, effective instrumentation conveying an awe-inspiring atmosphere. The rest of the first 7 tracks follow a similar framework to the opener - slow, eerie guitar, simple rhythms and clean vocals, with the exception of "In The Halls And Chambers of Stardust The Crystalline Heavens Open", which is a synth instrumental, and the faster, pure black metal assault of "Ut i Vannetas dyp hvar Morket hviler", which starts out speedy before settling into a loping groove similar to the material from Under A Funeral Moon. The pick of the bunch here is definitely "Naglfar", a twisted, crushing epic which makes great use of Fenriz's vocals and carries an excellent melody. It concludes with the, er, amusing sound of a belch.

The next demo is from 1989 - Spectres Over Gorgoroth - and here we get 5 short, intense tracks of primitive old school death metal, similar to Darkthrone's efforts of the time but a lot more primal and gutteral. The songs are obviously copied from a cassette, since you can hear plenty of pitch-warble and hiss, but that merely adds to the old-school feel. Then we return to a more blackened pitch on "The Fog", before the bizarre, pure rock'n'roll "Storm Of Evil" - this is what The Misfits would've sounded like if they were Norwegian black metallers. That's followed by another instrumental, then a perplexing half-minute of silence before the crushing doom metal finale "Our Lord Will Come", which proceeds at the pace of a funeral dirge while Fenriz warbles in a bizarrely cheerful-sounding voice. It's a strange ending to a monumental classic, but it fits perfectly. This album is the sound of an artist who's not scared to use any form of expression necessary to get the point across. Not only is it easily the most varied album to emerge from Norge, but it's also one of the most consistently brilliant. Eclecticism without compromising quality or artistic integrity - a lesson many of the former black metal bands turned experimental wankers would do well to learn from.