If you like your black metal to be pure as pure can be, in all its lo-fi glory then Ildjarn and his vocal companion Nidhogg should be a project that you have explored in your formative years. Formed back in Norway way back in 1991 Ildjarn was active at around the same time as Emperor and Immortal releasing his first demo recordings back in 1992. The first EP Norse was released via Nocturnal Art Productions in 1993 and Svartfråd via Norse League Productions; Ildjarn’s own label basically in 1996. There was a lot of material apart from these including no less than five albums, compilations and a fair few other EP’s between then and 2005 when the final and definitively straight speaking ‘Ildjarn Is Dead’ compilation laid this musical career to rest.
Ildjarn was I think it is fair to say a love it or hate it affair as far as the recording is concerned. This is primitive stuff in sound, execution and also in style. Having heard some of this many years ago I was intrigued to dip back in time especially as Eisenwald have gone to the trouble of lovingly re-issuing these EP’s in a two box card set with striking black and silver artwork and additional card illustrations included. It really is a labour of love and despite the running time of both releases coming in at only 23 minutes or so it is a worthy addition to anyone’s CD collection, especially in this digital age. The recording actually sounded a lot better than I remembered but then again I grew up taping off the radio and doing tape to tape transfers of stuff that immediately reduced the recording volume by half and was as much hiss as anything else. I also loved the likes of old Darkthrone, black metal and raw punk and still like the old retro sound on some things; the plug in and play of Ulver’s Nattens Madrigal is something I am much more likely to pull out and play than any of their latest up its arse stuff thank you very much.
There are 4 tracks on each EP and the instant battering of ‘Mørklagt Sti’ is fast paced and angry with a groove etched punkish section dividing the ferocious bursts. The cadaverous wretched shrieks of Nidhogg complement it excellently and it is easy listening to this and pulling more recent recordings by the likes of Taake, Horna and Arckanum from the bag and comparing the similarities in both filthy sound and primeval ferocity. Of course obviously Darkthrone and Mayhem got in first and nobody is likely to have much of a bad word to say about their early recordings. This has heart and soul about it, the constant and simplistic battering rhythms are forged through a youthful hunger. Ildjarn or Vidar Våer to take his real name was born in 1972 so would have been 20 at the time of recording this. Not as young as the likes of Immortal but still defining a style, one that actually would not ever find itself totally defined you could say. ‘Nattens Ledestjerne’ musically owes as much to the likes of Discharge as it does anything from the black metal spectrum, the strumming of the rugged notes is infectious and dirty and the raw feel is excellent. The sudden stop does take by surprise though it’s a case of “where’s the song gone and what happened.” Luckily almost as slapdash and bruising we have ‘Natt Og Tåke’to take on a dizzying dash to the finish line.
It is intriguing to skip forward three years to Svartfråd and discover that far from improving the duo sound even more rough rugged and uncouth. The bass definition has however improved giving ‘I Anmarsj Gjennom Grangrunn’ a fuller bodied feel. It has a real determined drive to it and ploughs away hell for leather, the shrieks sounding even more distempered and hostile. The pogo beat of the more mid-paced ‘Ved Tjernets Bredd’ springs up and down in a cider spilling chug that is completely monotonously repetitive but infectiously so allowing you to just leave your brain at the door and revel in it. Do we lose a guitar in the next song, who knows and it hardly matters as it jams away to the end. Last number Skogens Hatefulle Skapning is pure misanthropic destruction. Fast with shrill roars this one hits like a bomb and causes complete annihilation as it blazes away till the end losing it in some bass drone and then coming back with feedback, distortion and weird ghostly sounds before finally finishing.
All in all great stuff and a really enjoyable albeit brief trip back down memory lane.
(7/10 +1 for packaging Pete Woods)