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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.

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