Sweden’s Nordvis continues to defy convention by releasing an ever-more eclectic roster of musical genres, yet managing to ensure that there is a consistency in tone, ambience and atmosphere – and that atmosphere is always cold. Convincingly, undeniable Scandinavian cold. Enter Draugurinn to this burgeoning roster – a dark ambient/soundscape project whereby said atmosphere isn’t so much cold as absolutely frozen. The evocative grey and white artwork suggests glaciers, ice and snow-strewn caves lurking with ancient spectral horrors – and this is compounded by the absorbing sounds contained within.
It’s a stark, uncompromising release this – the five lengthy compositions are simply labelled ‘I’, ‘II’, ‘III’ etc. whilst the material is sinister, simmering and ominous. Lengthy drones of synth are punctuated by effectively minimal percussive rhythms that occasionally build to a crescendo – indeed, the mournful pads, distant cries and booming drums of ‘II’ are reminiscent of a less melodramatic Wardruna. Elsewhere, things take a distinctly darker turn – ‘IIII’ features a whole host of sibilant, ghostly whispers drifting across an escalating backdrop of crepuscular ambience.
The final piece ‘IIIII’ presents a reflective and altogether less sinister soundscape. There’s a definite touch of melancholy that runs through the pining, resonating melody lines that brings to mind some of the more affecting moments from masterful electronic acts such as Black Dog.
Isavetur is an interesting release – it requires concentration, of that there is no doubt. It’s quite a quiet album, preferring to dwell in subtle murkiness rather than the more pristine delivery of similarly-minded acts. This only seems appropriate for a record aiming to invoke the ambience of remote Scandinavian caverns inhabited by spirits buried aeons ago and in that, it is a successful venture indeed. Not one to fill the dancefloor but for those dark winter evenings where only revelling in the cold will do, this could provide the ideal soundtrack.
(8/10 Frank Allain)