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Istapp - "Blekinge" (CD)

Istapp - "Blekinge" CD cover image

"Blekinge" track listing:

1. Vinterriket (3:26)
2. Köldens Unionv (4:16)
3. 1160 (Miovik) (3:29)
4. I Väntan På Den Absoluta Nollpunkten (3:38)
5. Evig Köld Koncentrerad (3:28)
6. Snö (3:18)
7. Fjällhöga Nord (4:03)
8. Bortgång Af Alvrödul, Ljusets Förfall (3:51)
9. – (4:40)
10. Blekinge (3:48)

Reviewed by on June 2, 2010

"...Istapp does not play the bleakest of black metal, with only a-tonal tremolo and blast beats to feed on; instead they combine heavy doses of melody and rock n’ roll to make their soundtrack to the coming of eternal winter that much more cheery."

Istapp is a very serious black metal band. The press kit is not the usual paragraphs of platitudes about the band’s fierce attitude and brutal songs. It instead is made up of a 1,700-word story about how the three band members of Istapp were recruited by the Winter Gods to annihilate all of the sun-loving creatures on Earth and return the planet to its frozen glory. But here is where this tale gets interesting: Istapp does not play the bleakest of black metal, with only a-tonal tremolo and blast beats to feed on; instead they combine heavy doses of melody and rock n’ roll to make their soundtrack to the coming of eternal winter that much more cheery.

“Vinterriket” starts with tremolo and blast beats, but it quickly takes a sharp turn and mixes in a groove and melody worthy of Green Day’s pop-punk. Once infected, Istapp can’t rid themselves of the head-bopping elements and they dominate the rest of “Vinterriket,” and much of the rest of the album. “Koldens Unionv” starts with a gentle, wintery melody, informing the rest the song where it is to go. The anthemic guitar leads over melodic riffs, gentle backing vocal chants and slight touches of slower blast beats make “Koldens Unionv” not a war to reclaim the ice, but rather a pleasant stroll through picturesque wintertime forests.

Each song is filled with basic rock n’ roll finger-snapping groove and has a unique story to tell that isn’t about bleak and brutal winter. Even the predictably named “Sno” has some strikingly rhythmic and melodic black metal bellows from vocalist Mordechai von Renvaktar and a symphonic interlude that is more ballet than it is brutal. “Fjallhoga Nord” sounds like it was written by a depressed Korpiklaani instead of winter-worshipping black metallers, and we can easily picture the three Winter Gods drinking endless pints of ale in their cosmic pub.

The songwriting certainly is startlingly inventive, but what may make this album more than just a unique stab at black metal cheer is the production. Ashuck von Renvaktar’s bass can be clearly heard for almost the entire album. But even beyond that, each of the three band members plays his instrument(s) in a crystal clear setting but still manages to meld with the others to create a stripped down riff attack that is more apt for 3 Inches of Blood or Barn Burner than it is for black metal. Add in the light touch on studio effects, keys, and orchestral instruments and the unnamed producer outdid himself.

But fret not, brutal brothers, there is still plenty of tremolo and blast beats to sooth the wintery soul. The second half of “Bortgang Af Alvrodul, Ljusets Forfall” is all basic black metal bleakness, and the untitled ninth track piles heaps of tremolo and blasts on top of the winter war call intro and Mordechai’s tortured shriek, and underneath the guitar lead battle cry. But even these handpicked Warriors of Winter aren’t completely turned to the bleak ways of the forefathers by the end, as the title track closes the album with the most standard-bearing, troop inspiring and fist pumping melodies on the entire album.

Highs: The melody mixed with tremolo on “Koldens Unionv” is a great combination.

Lows: Sometimes the album can get a bit light for black metal.

Bottom line: Melody finds its way into winter worshipping black metal with fantastic results.

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)