REVIEW: Issfenn – Issfenn

Band: Issfenn
Album: Issfenn
Release: 2011
Label: Hvergelmir
Genre: Black n’ roll

From the secretive Canadian black metal scene, one band is attempting to break the mold and get recognized internationally for their brand of Gorgoroth-esque black ‘n roll with no frills attached. Issfenn, although only recently formed in Québec, have already been busying themselves with a tight tour schedule in the run-up to their début eponymous release, and the live element shows in the studio.

Duo Xost and Vitrid handle all the duties between them well. The former providing guitar that alternates a crunchy tone with foreboding melodic sections, coupled with a mid-level unfiltered rasp not unlike Pest’s own, and the latter provides a variety of drum patterns and bass rhythms, along with employing tasteful low growls such as near the end of “Helm Of Hell”. The album is well-produced in that everything has its place, but does leave a slightly synthetic taste in the mouth up until the final track, which takes on a slightly more melodic and depressive feel, and has quickly become my definite favorite of the album.

The lyrics appear to have taken a backseat priority for the first part of the album, but seem to improve as it progresses. “Serpent of self-interest, crowned king of infinite space, mirror trap horizon cage” from “Bicephalic” reads as something from a political surrealist journal, and the rushed vocal delivery gives the impression that the lyrics were an afterthought, possibly a remnant of live shows, and being accustomed to the audience not hearing the lyrics. On the flip side, “Splinters form from final rays, a freezing premonition/Shiver at the sight of inevitable waning” from “Light’s Last Sigh On The Equinox” has a certain beauty to it, and suits the slower and more somber vocal style. This shows some element of planning on an album that otherwise does feel a bit thrown together; “The Betrayal”, for example, feels like two sections rather than a cohesive song.

The reason I mentioned black n’ roll earlier is that, despite the band’s obvious black metal origins, many of the riffs and rhythms that are employed would not sound out of place on a hard rock or punk album (see “Bile” for the former, “Mindless March” for the latter). However, it’s more in line with newer Satyricon than Chrome Division, and still has more than enough punch to satisfy the black metal purists. The blasting sections such as on “Helm Of Hell” are brilliant and powerful, and hearing more of them would be a pleasure.

Those who have worn out the grooves of Quantos Possunt Ad Satanitatem Trahunt or Now, Diabolical can gain much from this release, as well as anyone with an interested in the dirtier side of black metal. Personally, I would like to see a continuation of the final track as the band’s sound, but regardless which way Issfenn decide to continue, I can see a fairly strong following emerge in both Canada and beyond.

Rating: 6.5/10

Song to try: Full stream here, try “Helm Of Hell”.

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