Review Summary: One of my personal favourite black metal albums from the best band of the second wave and the originators of raw black metal.
Ah, Ildjarn. Everything that needs to be said about this band has already been said, and I come into this review with a great deal of bias considering they're my favourite black metal band. That being said, Ildjarn's first three albums are masterpieces, and the self titled album is the crowning jewel on their legacy (I say 'their' knowing it's a solo project... I don't like saying 'his'). As everyone knows, Ildjarn played an uncompromisingly raw, minimal and simplistic form of black metal just as the second wave was taking off in Norway. Forget about Transilvanian Hunger, Ildjarn was it for raw black metal. And *** the majority of bands that came out of that scene, all you need is Ildjarn. I am exaggerating, but as I said they are my favourite black metal band.
Anyhow, the production here is very dull and hazy, recorded on a 4-track with Vidar Vaaer playing every instrument. The utter simplicity of the music means most of the time the same drum beat repeats for all or most of a song. The riffs are harsh and simplistic and mostly limited to a few chords a piece. But it's not just a few punky power chord progressions. The music is very dark and dissonant while retaining a punky pace and intensity. The bass is frequently audible even behind the flurry of distortion, and oddly enough isn't always distorted. Although that would give me a boner, the clean bass lines are well written and add to the hypnotic atmosphere, occasionally taking on different rhythms than the guitar. The album isn't all played at the same tempo either. Certain songs slow it down (such as the crushing and brutal "Krigere" and "Himmelhelv", and the percussionless and almost stonerishly hazy "Blikkets Storhet"). Vidar really knows how to deliver captivating filth as well as hypnotic repetitiveness and wonderful dissonance. All these things encapsulate the Ildjarn sound, and it's perfect all the way through. The vocals are also noteworthy. They're almost exclusively harsh rhasps that match the tone of the music well. He also throws in a few chant-like clean vocal parts here and there.
For some the album drags. It's 27 tracks and over an hour long. For me that's great, because I can't get enough of this stuff. Also I should mention that this is definitely how raw black metal should be recorded and performed. Many people get down on Ildjarn for having such a primitive approach, but out of the oodles of other raw black metal bands that exist Ildjarn does it best. The songwriting is perfect, everything flows, there are no awkward parts, no improper timing or mistakes, no annoyingly bad recording, everything is in the right place in the mix, and the whole album has a consistent tone and feel. Furthermore the songs sound genuine and full of substance. It doesn't sound like something some loser metalheads slapped together, it's inspired and creative music. That sounds like a pretty gay and elitist thing to say, but that's the way it is.
So this is Ildjarn's debut. It's their best album (although that's a tough distinction with the amazing follow-ups Forest Poetry and Strength and Anger to contend with) and since Ildjarn is my favourite black metal band, it's high up there as one of my overall favourite black metal releases. This is what I look for in black and metal and to a large extent in music in general: raw, harsh, filthy, and uncompromising music with a level of substance that I sort of feel intuitively. I'm sure most black metal fans have already heard it, and there's a great many people who say it's utter trash and horribly overrated. Those people just don't have the same ear for rawness as me, and they probably don't enjoy much of the filthy trash I crave. There's not much point in making a specific recommendation on such a well known album/band, but there's my two cents.
(originally written for www.metal-archives.com under the name stonetotem)