Reviewed By Michael O'Brien
Published 05 January, 2014
Back to the ice-cold north
Back in 2011 I was caught off guard by hitherto unfamiliar Norwegian melodic black metal act Iskald and their third full-length release, The Sun I Carried Alone. It wasn’t that Iskald’s style was in any way refreshingly new that made The Sun Carried Alone so enjoyable, it was that there was an inherent sense of fun bursting out from the band’s poppy, highly melodic black metal that was, in a word, infectious. Now, some three years later, Iskald are back with their fourth album, Nedom og Nord, which is described as ‘their most epic release to date’.
The word ‘epic’ is frustratingly meaningless when it is used without any kind of context as it was in the accompanying promotional material for this album. Based on my previous experience with the band I surmised that it would ultimately refer to a collection of material that continues along in the same vein as The Sun I Carried Alone, with the ‘epic’ aspect being more of the poppy, irresistibly catchy material I liked so much. Having spent some time with Nedom og Nord, however, I think it is probably more a reference to the length of the tracks themselves (each hovers somewhere between seven and eight minutes, on average) as opposed to the overriding atmospheric or aesthetic qualities of the music.
It’s true that Nedom og Nord with its six lengthy tracks sounds similar in many respects to The Sun I Carried Alone but the similarities aren’t quite as pronounced as you may be expecting. The biggest difference between the two is that the underlying thrash-like influences that gave the former album a sense of upbeat urgency has largely been dispensed with, leaving only the melodic black metal elements in place. In and of itself this shouldn’t be much of an issue when you consider that it is a large part of what made The Sun I Carried Alone the album that it was but it also feels less exciting this time around without the accompanying thrashier moments; it’s the catchy hooks that really made the band’s previous album so much fun and they simply aren’t in anywhere near as much abundance on Nedom og Nord, which is a real shame.
Despite my disappointment with the band’s refinement of their sound, however, there’s still quite a lot to like about Nedom og Nord because the band’s ability to formulate well-rounded, highly melodic riffs is still fully intact here. Each of the six tracks on offer are very solidly written and each features a number of easily digestible riffs that are immediately pleasing to the ear, though I do feel that the band’s transition to penning longer-form songs has resulted in a lack of overall impact. It’s not that there’s an abundance of filler present that pads out the track lengths, per se, but there is just the slightest hint of meandering here and there which dulls the experience ever so slightly. I found myself really enjoying individual parts of the songs as opposed to the songs in their entirety more often than not which I can attribute solely to this bulging of length.
When it comes down to it, however, there’s still a lot of fun to be had with Nedom og Nord and it’s quite likely that my feelings toward it have been shaped more by my expectations from previous output as opposed to anything the band has done inherently badly or flat out wrong this time around. Ultimately, there are few bands playing melodic black metal that I’m aware of who possess the turn of riff that Iskald does and that, above all, is what will keep me coming back to them for more.
Indie Recordings/Rocket Distribution