|©2007 Indie Recordings
1. Hymn of Desolation
2. The Shadowland
4. Lokes Dan
5. Då Gjallarhorn Song
7. Shades of Misery
8. Warriors of the Northern Twilight
9. When Hell Freezes Over
Over the past twenty years, which is essentially the time period that "modern" black metal has existed, the scene has gone from a very underground, secret-handshake exclusive club to something that permeates every nook and cranny of the globe. Anywhere that has guitars and kids who can musically scowl will also have a black metal band. Unfortunately, this has led to quite the hemorrhaging of overall quality and create a murky stew of Jesus-hatin' incompetents releasing so many abysmal records that it's often impossible to take note of the bands that actually can still pull off good black metal. Iskald, from the fertile grounds of Norway, are one such band that just so happens to be head and shoulders above the rest, yet are likely less known than they should be.
Their name apparently translates to "ice cold", which leads me to believe their band name is something that gets shouted in the morning when it's time to walk to vocational college (ie: "iskald out this morning, better bundle up!"). But their sound is not that cold sort of black metal that was all the rage with some bands for awhile. Instead, Iskald seems to have drawn from a wide range of influences (anywhere from Immortal to Swedish melodic death metal) and come up with a sound that is familiar like a nice pair of broken in gloves, yet with songwriting solid enough to help them stand apart from the crowd. The duo that makes up Iskald is obviously quite good at their instruments, rather than coming across as overly ambitious youths who probably should spend some more time practicing in their bedrooms. Better yet, Iskald figured out how to record a record that is both great sounding and powerful, yet raw. So many bands think that creating an impenetrable wall of sound is the way to go (ask me about Marduk and how utterly useless I find them) or so poorly recorded that it is a waste of recording session. Iskald finds a nice balance that more bands should consider emulating.
The songwriting on Shades of Misery is well executed. The band is adept at good arrangements, keeping the longer songs interesting and offering up subtle changeups that move things along. "Eden" is a great example of very simple moves within the song that also make it very memorable. Even the longest song "Pesten" avoids wearing out its welcome with a dynamic arrangement. This song demonstrates how they can slow the tempo on a dime, yet make it entirely fluid.
Perhaps because Iskald has focused on writing and performing good music without any over the top visual hysteria or outrageous press releases, they are overlooked as of yet. Shades of Misery is a dead solid debut and one that grows on you with each listen. If you haven't checked this band out yet, do yourself a favor and take your ears to the nearest listening device to treat yourself to black metal done correctly.
Review by John Chedsey
Review date: 03/2012