Friday, 10 February 2012

[ALBUM REVIEW] Ildra - Edelland

Genre - Pagan/Black Metal

1. Sweorda Ecgum
2. Rice Æfter Oðrum
3. Hrefnesholt (Dæl I)
4. Esa Blæd
5. Ofer Hwælweg we Comon
6. Nu is se Dæg Cumen
7. Earendel
8. Swa Cwæð se Eardstapa
9. On þas Hwilnan Tid

Not a whole lot is known about this mysterious ensemble from England. ILDRA happen to be one of the very few Black Metal bands who sing in the ancient Anglo Saxon language. A number of bands recently have dipped their toes into ancient English history, most notably those such as WINTERFYLLETH, FOREFATHER and the only other one who I can think of who recorded a full album in Anglo-Saxon, EALDULF. None have really delved into it though to the extent which ILDRA have here on “Edelland”. It’s a welcome variation from the usual ancestral European pagan and celtic beliefs and a window into a history that seldom gets any attention at all in the metal scene.

The music itself is a lot more Black Metal focused than FOREFATHER though, there is a significant mid-period GRAVELAND influence throughout the structure of the material here, and not to forget also a large “Hammerheart” influence to proceedings as well. This is none more obvious than in the vast meandering instrumental passages to many of the songs; the dense surging riffing and the booming coarse vocals driven by the warlike pounding on the drums give the music a real presence of triumph. On top of this there is also that weathered organic sound constantly existent throughout, augmented frequently by some rather illustrious work on the acoustic guitar.

The first proper track, ‘Kingdom After Kingdom’ bursts in with aplomb, like some ancient British war hymn laced with the undulating riffs and thunderous drumming. The vocalist could just as well be the commander barking orders to his men. The accented delivery of the Old English lyrics certainly adds a certain grit to the overall spirit of things. The same could pretty much be said for the rest of the metal tracks here, and the frequent marriage of acoustic and electric guitar passages is incredible, and keeps everything sounding sharp. On top of this “Edelland” is also woven with frequent tact lead work, which can be difficult to achieve in Black Metal. Few bands can pull it off as well as this.

Most of the songs contain extensive brooding instrumental sections which accentuate that earthen, triumphant atmosphere to such an extent it’s pouring out your ear holes. And on the subject if instrumentals, this album has quite a few breaking up the main songs so to speak, and for once on a Black Metal album they complement the overall multi dimensional atmosphere perfectly, stirring that already present tempestuous air further. They pretty much sound like some arcane war tune with their acoustic melodies and menacing drum work.

Some of the rhythms do have a tendency to repeat themselves at times, you’ll be thinking “Did I not hear that riff before?” but thankfully this is only a minor gripe as it doesn’t occur too often to be a major problem. “Edelland” is an extremely mature and accomplished piece of work. It brings a certain degree of welcome inspiration and freshness to an area of Black Metal which is sorely missing something like this of late. Fans of WINTERFYLLETH and GRAVELAND need this, because while GRAVELAND have released some seminal albums, they also have the habit at times of sounding very contrived, especially these days, “Edelland” can easily stand on its own two feet against the best of the genre. And to be totally honest on this evidence, ILDRA aren’t light years away from making a “Thousand Swords” themselves. This will be a tough one to match not just by ILDRA themselves, but by anyone aiming to ply their trade in this area.


Originally written for The Metal Observer

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