I’m hearing a lot of cries and complaints about the new Isengard. Black metal warlords wailing about another man’s project as if they were being served the wrong order at McDonalds; bloggers describing the sound as if they have ever understood Isengard’s purpose, and essence in the first place. So much flaccid chatter from meak whelps who have no idea what it means to ‘ride the solar winds’. If there is one thing I truly hate its winging, self-proclaimed cultists. Absolutely nothing less grim. Pups in wolf costumes… by my humble reckoning.
Isengard is a project which has always stood amid a tight-knit company of artists that consistently demonstrate the ability to paint a landscape, setting, feeling, and/or season; depending on the intent of the song of choice. Projects such as Winterfylleth, Lustre, Urfaust, Bellwitch and Ulver are some of those which I might regard as ‘good company’ for this classic project. Conjured up in the late 80s by Gylve ‘Fenriz’ Nagell, better known for his band Darkthrone, Isengard has now released a new full-length entitled Vårjevndøgn, which has brought some old material into the light of 2020 for all those willing to give it a try.
The title Vårjevndøgn literally means ‘Spring Equinox’, and is rightfully dubbed so. For this release – although diverges from giving the listener a feeling of continuity or flow between each track – is enshrouded in a production which reminds one of an ill-lit, badly insulated cabin. The guitar tone casts a chill upon you which could only be described as bone chilling. Yet this is not a freezing winter-cold chill, but one of damp origin; like the feeling of wet clothing that clings to you as you finish the chores amidst the early-spring drizzle.
The drums hit with anger, yet also a weakness. This gives me the sensation of frustration, and stagnation. This is the rhythm of the dying peasant as he goes about his miserable say, cursing the sun that is bright, yet without warmth. Amidst the combination of the two resonant feelings – cast over the listener by the guitars and drums – moan the vocals of a half buried and withering corpse. This is true blackmagic. This is the essence of true blackmetal. Here lies a release of pure misery amidst a season that is supposed to symbolise rebirth, gods love, and release. This is the true song of the people. This is the sound of the common man’s misery, and it yet goes discarded by those who do not understand. By those who wish for the ugly, and yet pinch their noses and turn heel at the first foul stench of true ‘folk music’.
The tribal beat, and meditative aura of the final track The Solar Winds Mantra is a testament to the true nature of this genre. Yet it will appear as nothing of the sort to those who do not understand its deep symbolism and necessity towards the rest of the album. Perhaps even spark a rage within those who just… don’t get it. It comes as an acknowledgment of all things miserable, and a magic spell tethered to the duty one feels they must keep throughout terrible situations. The sun, though not always full of warmth, will one day bring its abundant gifts to those who remain true to their duties. Ironically, this last track might be seen as yet another modern-kenning to those who understand, and respect this portrayal of spring that Isengard has delivered to us upon this rather miserable, and isolated year.