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A New Direction - 65%

raoulduke25, August 5th, 2015

Isvind are not in any way new to the Norwegian black metal scene. After kicking off in the early nineties, they produced a few demos before losing a member and changing their name from Ice Wind to Isvind, moving right along with the trend to remove the Norwegian black metal scene from its English roots and toward its own identity. Isvind has a reputation for fast and relentless black metal, and whilst they have more or less stayed true to that sound, this new release does mark a set of rather salient departures from their previous templates.

People respond in a variety of ways to their favourite bands when they change styles. The accusations of “selling out” are all too common in more extreme forms of music, since an increase in accessibility means an increase in audience and therefore, a higher chance at increasing revenues. But even though Gud is indeed a more accessible record than their previous works, it is most certainly not a sellout record.

The album title is simply “God” in English and all the song titles are all single words for definite nouns such as, “Flommen” (the flood), “Boken” (the book), and “Ordet” (the word). I don’t have any real handle of the Norwegian language, and the lyrics have not been published to my knowledge, so if there is indeed an overarching theme to the album, I wouldn’t be surprised, but I don’t have any way of knowing for certain.

The very first thing you notice on this album is that like a number of other black metal bands, Isvind have added clean female vocals to this album, specifically an a capella introduction to the album that is as haunting as it is beautiful, complete with all the eerie harmonies you would expect from darker music. Even once the vocal introduction in complete, the first track still stands out as very different from their earlier works, as it plays more like a post-rock ballad than anything else in their discography. More devoted black metal fans may be tempted to turn the album off after the first track based on its radical departure. If you’re inclined to do this, don’t. Give the rest of it a listen first.

The remainder of this album is pretty much what they do best: fast and furious mid-fi black metal. On this particular effort, they seem to have resorted to more conventional compositional structures, including riffs and fills that are largely diatonic instead of the more chromatic and atonal phrases found in their earlier albums. Female vocals appear sporadically throughout on various tracks, as do a few slower interludes and softer intros that help to punctuate the album and give a little variety. But in the end, the little pockets of colour here and there don’t make up for the otherwise monochrome feel of the album as a whole. There are bits and pieces that stand out, and these are some great gems to behold. But at the end of the day, you’d probably be better off just going after those and forgetting the rest. Besides the opening track, some excellent highlights are “Ordet”, “Dåren”, and “Hyrden”.

If you are already an Isvind follower, then you should definitely check this out as I think it presents a compelling addition to their discography. If you have never listened to Isvind before, Gud probably wouldn’t be a bad place to start.

Originally written for fetiddead.wordpress.com.

Infinite Frost - 85%

rvsso, July 29th, 2015

Unrelenting frostbitten black metal is far from a fresh concept, but Isvind are obligated to play the style thanks to their band name. Just because they are playing a tried and true style of metal doesn't mean there is no room for unique input to prevent staleness. Right off the bat on the opening track, Isvind inject a triumphant soundscape to the grim frosty wasteland they create. It continues right on into the next track, "Ordet", which is one of the highlights of the album with the numerous tempo changes and riffing insanity. Instead of having a buzzsaw guitar sound, Isvind have a melodic touch at the forefront of this track while remaining punishing at the same time.

One thing is apparent as you begin to summit the middle of the album: the members of Isvind are masters of their instruments. Along with the core members, Gud features AntiChristian from Tsjuder on behind the kit, and he leaves his trademark of stamina and brutality throughout. His work with Tsjuder is the pinnacle of no-nonsense second wave black metal, and that is what he brings to this album. While Isvind may not be master innovators, the amount and cleanliness of the riffs are second to none- you simply can't play much faster than this. They play as if the only way to warm themselves up in this bitter environment is to continuously shred. The middle of the track “Daren” is absolutely mindblowing, reaching a climax marked by a haunting desperation of female vocals, only to descend the peak with an even faster riff than the previous. Moments like this illustrate the masterful cohesion that Isvind possess, and the emotions that are created and realized are the ultimate gift of black metal.

While the album really starts off fantastically, I can't help but grow a bit disenchanted with the melodic charm of the album. Gud simply begins to drag on in the second half, and with most songs hovering near or over the 5 minute mark, it feels as if some of them overstay their welcome. And while praise was heaped on the unrelenting brutality, it serves as a double-edged sword for Isvind. It might be unreasonable to criticize what is not there, but some songs would benefit from a slow section, even briefly, to create a different kind of harsh frosty atmosphere. Listening to AntiChristian drum throughout this album, I find myself longing for a slower passage in the vein of Desert Northern Hell. The track “Boken” does ease into a mid-tempo passage, but at this point in the album it is too little too late. The slow passage on “Giften”, rather than creating something new, just seems like a confused break and feels out of place on the album. The last three tracks comprise 17 minutes of the album and offer nothing new.

While Gud may get stale towards the end, there is no denying that Isvind are absolute masters of their craft. It takes a special energy to create this kind of album, and Anti-Christian on the drums is a huge highlight for me- few drummers could do justice to the members of Isvind by playing this frenetically. This album has staying power on my playlist as it is frequently on shuffle, and I would love to hear a song from this album every now and then, but sitting down and ingesting this entire album proves to be sort of a monotonous slog. It’s not that the last tracks are any weaker than the early ones, they are just the exact same. “Daren” is one of the best metal songs of the year and everyone should give this a listen, and then maybe try out the album as a whole. You will bow to the might of the music, just don’t expect much variation. But I guess in a frozen wasteland, there’s not much variation there either.

Originally written for Fetid Dead