Iskandr - Gelderse Poort

23 Oct 2020 - Thorsten

Blackened-Folk-Metal | Eisenwald | Release date: 23 Oct 2020

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How productive can a single collective be? Haeresis Noviomagi releases yet another ultra-high-quality record this year, this time by one-man-project Iskandr.

O. is another example of a highly productive musician that has been challenging the notions and limits of modern music. He is a member of Lubbert Das, Turia and Solar Temple and heading his one-man-project black metal project Iskandr. The guitarist seems to be overflowing with brilliant music as Iskandr’s new, glorious EP Gelderse Poort is already his second memorable release in 2020, after Turia’s Degen van Licht, out early this year.

Now, of course, there are similarities in sound and approach, mostly between Turia and Iskandr, with the former’s collaboration with Fluisteraars De Oord setting the tone and idea behind Iskandr’s new EP which also focuses on O.’s home region in western Holland, where the mighty Rhine splits into two rivers and thus makes for a very significant region. Gelderse Poort is O.’s image for the river which splits right at the border between Holland and Germany and therefore forms a kind of gate into the Netherlands. The region, Gelderland, is where his roots are and where his inner calm lies. However, for O. this gate is not only a geographical metaphor but also a spiritual one, as this is the region into which he was born and where he will die; it’s his gateway from one world to the next and onward.

On his new EP – two awesome tracks of nearly 24 minutes playing time – he is talking about these roots in the opening title track. That track showcases all of his trademark sounds – very windy intros, like the winds howling across Gelderland but on the other side also very calm and opening up. When remembering the last Iskandr-record Euprosopon, one surely remembers the cut-up cover of a Gothic church. That sacral building was also mirrored with a kind of sacral sound – wide, high, opening up towards the above; very unlike the barren, deep, graven regular black metal lo-if-sound. Not that Euprosopon was a hi-fi-record – but the structures and soundscape resembled the cover perfectly. And this very sound is also the key to the track “Gelderse Poort”, as the song was recorded during the same session as the last full-length. Therefore, the similar sound structure with a very wide and opening second half is a result of the songwriting as well as of the recording.

BUT – a review of a two-track record must of course also talk about that second track. And o’ my O.! “Het Graf” (‘The Grave’) is an instant ‘hit’ - very folksy, very doomy, with a semi-acoustic guitar basis and in a the same line as some parts on the latest Afsky and Fluisteraars records. The vocals are a spoken-word-performance of the poem of the same name by Dutch writer Rhijnvis Feith delivered by O.’s father. The poem, written in 1792, talks about the river and even more about death and the inevitability of it. We cannot escape it, we all must face it. And we also see it all around us all the time, with people dear and not-so-dear around us dying. How do the remaining react to these deaths? Do they cry and mourn? Or do they face life again quickly? After roughly 7.30 minutes the song goes into a dark post-punk direction with the initial guitar line still playing in the background until the is a recurrence of the beginning and of O.’s father. This is dark folk or folk-influenced post-punk at its very, ultimate best.

If you then think back on the duplicity of the ‘poort’, the gate – then you will see that O. has done it once again: his songs resemble this duplicity perfectly with both tracks using the ‘gate’ as a double metaphor – for the region and all its glorious landscapes as well as for the gate between worlds and lives. All this accompanied by some of the most ferocious and yet open and warm black metal and post-punk one will listen to this year. His output remains scathingly good and astonishingly perfect.