I do like a band who do exactly what it says on the tin. “Smell of black metal 90-95” goes the instruction on Iku Turso’s debut and there it is in all its pungent glory. Seriously.
This is an international four piece with feet in Finland (I think a couple might also be in Wrathage), the Netherlands and the USA but as the description says, the sound is closer to Finland than the USA. After the choppy, rhythmic intro ‘Into The Great Tower’ we get thirty odd minutes of hugely atmospheric, cold dark black metal that could have stepped out from the shadow of those days in the nineties. ‘An Adversary’s Funeral’ has one of those rolling, relentless riffs like a nightwind, the dark cloak of an ominous Emperor with the powerful melodic pull of Sargeist allied to some unorthodox high pitched keening vocals amidst the standard growls, something which takes you aback at first but really draws you in. It’s a huge start, beautifully crafted and prices you are not in the hands of a paper thin retread, but something determined.
‘Chastise Yourself’ takes things slower and again I’d guess the most obvious reference point is Emperor, but still again the vocal flourishes, the howls, the use of tempo changes adds its own personality. The class is never in question though. ‘Tenebrous Sepulchres’ cranks it up again before we descend into ‘The Wind Is Singing My Name’ which adds a little Burzum-esque touch along with a little more of the ambient end, even early Mortiis. Again, though, it is done with conviction not as a pastiche. ‘Everlasting Nightsky’ and ‘The Capriciousness Of The Galaxy’ close things out nicely.
The grasp of melody and occasional melancholy such as ‘Bleached Bones In Utter Darkness’ really transports you to a spine ringing, dark place. ‘Seething Sultrines’ though is all about the bite despite the swell of keyboards. It is so accessible, so familiar but still just different enough to have its own landscape. Along with Mork and Midnight Odyssey, Iku Turso add to the roots of my memories and remind me in 2017 why black metal had such a pull on me to begin with.
No it is not doing anything new, anything different. The Emperor feel is strong as are other influences but it has enough of its own mind and enough cold seductive charm to more than win me over.