Isengard - Vinterskugge
Peaceville Records
Folky Black/Death/Doom Metal
16 songs (64:30)
Release year: 1994
Peaceville Records
Reviewed by Thomas
Archive review

In the lurking shadow of Darkthrone’s horns, Fenriz created a one-man project called Isengard. The purpose of the band was to let go of all the creativity he was never able to use with Darkthrone. For those who expect all-out raw black metal can look elsewhere. This is a juicy mix of folk, black, death, doom and he even got some ambient stuff going on here. Fenriz handles every instrument himself, and surprisingly he doesn’t flat-out suck on any of them. Vinterskugge is a compilation of Isengard’s three first demos; Spectres Over Gorgoroth, Horizons and Vandreren. This was the band’s only proper offer aside from the first full-length Høstmørke, and this was actually released the year before. Is this a long-forgotten gem you should keep your eyes open for if you’re a black metal enthusiast?

Well, although I’m no black metal expert I dare to say absolutely. This is much more varied than other typical black metal releases; it contains music from three different demos which are quite different in terms of style and this is therefore pretty exciting. As I said earlier, if you want your typical balls-out raspy vocals, tremolo riffing and machine-gun drumming, look elsewhere. Although you’ll get some songs firmly placed within the Black Metal scene, they aren’t dominating this. On the opening track, Fenriz uses mighty operatic vocals, which is… unusual. On paper that may sound horrible, because the guy can’t really sing. However, the result of the melting is strikingly impressive, and although the production is pretty rough and raw around the edges, it’s still clear enough to get anything out of it. As for the haters, the guitar-tone actually contains some bass so you won’t get the typical buzz-saw, ear-piercing distortion. After the weird but great guitar-driven instrumental Gjennom Skogen Til Blaafjellene which could easily be classified as ambient, the first stroke of black metal thunders through the fields of your hearing. Ut I Vannets Dyp Hvor Morket Hviler is fast and furious and Fenriz shows us that he is skilled with both the guitar and can shriek like only a black metal overlord can. After the doom piece that is Dommedagssalme and another instrumental, driven by keyboards this time, the first really folk-y track Fanden Lokker Til Stupet (Nytrad) kicks in. It’s yet another instrumental piece which seems to be adding up and is getting slightly annoying even though they’re thrilling enough. However, the mighty Viking-epic Naglfar easily makes up for it, and lifts it a couple of notches in terms of quality. The musicianship is simplistic yet outstanding and the melodies as well as the atmosphere are dark and gloomy yet still as crushingly powerful as Thors Hammer. It marks the end of the first chapter Vandreren.

Chapter two, Spectres Over Gorgoroth is dominated by primitive old-school death-like black metal. The songs are faster, shorter and much more intense. Fenriz’ grim and frost-bitten vocals are harsh and more guttural than on Vandreren, almost bordering on grunts. The simplistic drumming and the gloomy, epic atmosphere is nearly gone, which makes this more brutal and in-your-face. The production is a little thicker and tighter than on the previous chapter that makes it sound a little more, in a lack of a better word, comfortable. After the closing outro Trollwandering, the doom-y Isengard once again enters the blackened forests of Middle Earth, when the slow and crushing The Fog paves its way through hordes of shapeless shadows. Whatever you were led to believe by the opening track of the Horizons, Storm of Evil will definitely prove you wrong. It’s a pure rock n’ roll track with nods to both The Ramones and The Misfits, and obviously, caught me completely by surprise. The simple riffs and catchy choruses nearly succeed in bringing recent Darkthrone-outings to mind. Yet another instrumental follows before the morbid, shattering Our Lord Will Come finishes the third and last chapter of Vinterskugge.

If you’re a patient listener and want to get something a little out of the ordinary, Isengard is definitely worth checking out. It’s varied yet consistent and you never really know what you’ll get through the first listen. This is an album of an artist that does what he wants to express himself and get his points across. Although it’s pretty simplistic, it’s still a creatively impressive display of a multi-instrumentalist who may not be the best skill-wise in the business, but on the other hand one of the few who knows how to combine them without exaggerating. This isn’t flawless, but I know one man who doesn’t care what I think, and that is Fenriz.

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Killing Songs :
Vinterskugge, Gjennom Skogen til Bjafjellene, Naglfar, Thy Gruesome Death, Storm Of Evil, Our Lord Will Come
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