Isvind are one of those obscure names that are whispered reverentially on the lips of those who worship the more obscure releases from the Scandinavian black metal scene of the mid-Nineties. Thanks to their debut ‘Dark Waters Stir’ debut from 1996, they have generally been bracketed alongside such cult outfits as Kvist, The Black and Throne of Ahaz – bands who dropped one album of singular distinctiveness, redolent with the obscure atmospheres that dripped from the best of the bands of that era – before disappearing back into the gloom of obscurity.
Dark Waters Stir was one such record – Arak Draconiiz and the hilariously-monikered Goblin producing a record that positively oozed clattering Nordic intensity – with the band seemingly disappearing from view shortly afterwards. Except it seems that since their reformation in 2011, the duo have been busy – two full lengths have appeared since then and now the band (expanded to a four piece from 2003) bring us their latest opus, Gud.
The passage of 19 years has seen Isvind change their approach somewhat. Gone is the clattery, frozen, dungeonic ambience of old and instead we are presented with something more visceral and dense. The guitars are thick, the vocals acrid, the drums punishing. Riffs scythe and swoop, blending melody and aggression deftly as we’ve come to expect from such material. Nevertheless, the compositional uniqueness and touches of leftfield inspiration demonstrated on earlier releases are present here also and elevate this album beyond the confines of standard Norsecore.
Opener ‘Flommen’ begins with an unexpectedly gentle choral refrain – of course, this is soon obliterated by the fury of the main riff but throughout the album, Isvind (or ‘Ice Wind’ if you prefer) deploy small bursts of ethereal clean vocals to great effect. They’re never obtrusive and never outstay their welcome but at points (such as the central section of ‘Daren’) they really add an extra dimension to the band’s assault.
And it’s a well-composed assault for the most part. ‘Ordet’ boasts a great theme, the winding lead motif worming its way into the brain whilst ‘Hyrden’ peels of hook after hook. It’s not just enough for Isvind to grind away on minor chords – there’s always attention to detail paid, a desire to describe an atmosphere and just do something a little different that marks them out as an act of genuine worth.
(8/10 Frank Allain)