Review Summary: A straightforward and no nonsense Norwegian Black Metal effort for those wanting a taste of the old school.
Part of the third tier of Norwegian black metal bands, Isvind (literally, Ice Wind
) is an obscure and often forgotten band from Oslo. They contributed two demos and one full length album in 1996, Dark Water Stir
. Isvind play a very conventional, no frills style of black metal, and the fact that this was made in 96 is somewhat surprising given its old school approach and "white wash" production.
After the obligatory intro the album starts with solid opening track, "Ulv! Ulv!" and instantly one begins to think of Darkthrone - specifically Under a Funeral Moon / Transylvanian Hunger
era Darkthrone. Isvind use a two guitar attack with no keyboards (except for the intro and closing tracks) and one guitar invariably takes the high harmony. Track one is definitely indicative of what is to come as Isvind do not stray from this formula to any great extent.
Isvind are a band that is firmly committed to the blast beat, though there are definitely moments of groove. The drums are old school / non triggered and I find this style much easier to stomach than the sound-a-like, overly compressed, and drum-machine-sounding modern black metal bands. Goblin is also a fantastic drummer. His blasts are rough and raw with a fair amount of aggression and his variety during breakdowns is enough to keep things interesting.
The vocals are your standard black metal fair - more troll-like than witch-like (truly there are only two flavors of black metal vocals aren't there?). With the exception of the album's title and the title track, everything is in Norwegian on this album. Without having access to a lyric sheet, I can only assume he is singing in Norwegian.
The true meat of Dark Water Stir
is the guitar harmonies, many of which are quite creative and emotional. The riffs bring to mind Dissection's Storm of the Light's Bane
at times, and also Darkthrone. After repeated listens it is not unreasonable to assume that Isvind was indeed very inspired by Darkthrone, but it does not feel like a complete rip-off. They add their own flavor and mix it up a bit more, but they are content to stay within the formula.
Standout tracks include the aforementioned "Ulv! Ulv!" and the excellent "Lysningen I Skogen" which includes a soulful moment of clean guitar and some nice slow grooves mixed in with the blasting. The album's title track goes on a bit long, but can be enjoyable in the way ambient black metal is enjoyable. The bands sheer endurance is truly admirable here however, as the 9+ minute track never lets up. The final track is a keyboard heavy ambient track that then has a good 8 minutes of silence before a hidden track that sounds to be a cover (though the original is not something I've heard).
Ultimately, Dark Water Stir
is an enjoyable slab of roots-era Norwegian Black Metal (even if it was a bit late in the game). While nothing really revolutionary is at work here, fans of Darkthrone, Immortal, and even early era Emperor and Enslaved will no doubt find something to enjoy in Isvind's only album. Casual fans of the genre are best to steer clear however, because the tracks do tend to blend together and one can get frustrated with the monotony if one were not conditioned to enjoy that sort of thing (again, Transylvania Hunger
anyone?). But if this one has slipped by you and you long for the days of washed out blast beats and back-mixed vocals, Dark Water Stir
just might brighten your day.