19 Sep 2021 - Knut
Black Metal | Eisenwald | Release date: 24 Sep 2021
Dutch Black Metal project Iskandr is releasing a new interesting full album after last year´s amazing EP Gelderse Port. Thorsten and Knut again sat down to discuss their impressions of the new album and Iskandr’s discography.
Thorsten Knut and I are here again to talk once again as a duo. We will be talking about this new release coming up soon by the Dutch band called Iskandr, which is basically a solo project by the guitarist of Turia, O. - that’s the stage moniker he uses. He releases the new album, Vergezicht on September 24th through Eisenwald Records. And, well it’s just simply amazing how far the guy is going on his path to incorporate, I don’t want to say ancient, but older kinds of music, older musical sounds into his version of Black Metal. I think with each release he’s getting better at what he does. Knut, what is your opinion?
Knut Yes, I think so too. I think the production, mixing and mastering has changed in this last, or the last two albums and the EP. The sound was kind of muffled on the first EP and the first full release, but as the multi-talented and multi-instrumentalist he is, he has developed the band and invited Turia´s and Fluisteraars´ drummer M. Koops for the third full-length. The soundscape has become mightier and almost medieval, while he is reaching back to the early Bergen scene and the, still going, Emperor and Enslaved. At the same time obscured in the mystique that surround Iskandr, although O. is involved in many bands at his local scene.
Thorsten Yeah, just like we said; we should notice that even though this is only the third full length under the stage name of Iskandr, it’s O.´s fifth or sixth release that he’s been involved with over the last two years as a musician. So, the guy is like highly efficient mega-productive maniac. And what is even more impressive is that all his releases are impeccable. No flaws in his discography! And the creativity that is shown in songs like ”Gezag”, the opening track of this new record, which by the way has nothing to do with Iskandr´s last track ”Het Graf” from last year´s EP, Gelderse Port. ”Het Graf” was a very, very dark folk song, very doomy with lyrics taken from an 18th century poem and delivered by O.’s father. And now the opening of this new record has nothing to do with the sound of ”Het Graf”. So, what do you think of ”Gezag”, which by the way means something like authority in Dutch?
Knut This is a very nice very exciting start. Although it’s opening with an acoustic guitar before we are thrown into the quite warm and dark metal soundscape of Iskandr. In my opinion, the soundscape lies between Black Metal and Death Metal. I have always seen Black Metal as a bit cold and Death Metal as a kind of warmer music. He uses parts of both soundscapes in this song, but there is also a clear floating, atmospheric element that runs through this album. When O. adds choir effects to the soundscape, you get immersed in it. Add to that, the steadfast drumming technique. How strange it may seem, the drums also has a flowing feel. Sometimes in the background you hear this wonderful solo guitar as the song moves faster. It has a fast, swelling motion to it with the drums changing to almost blast mode.
Thorsten Yeah, I also love the feeling of the outro of this 10-minute opus. Because as you said, that it’s very Scandinavian. In a way it’s very Enslaved and it has a few dark percussive elements at the end which are very out of a regular black metal assortment of drum kits.
And then the second track, Bloeddraad, meaning something like fibre or string of blood, is very interesting because to me that is like a Prog Metal song without wanting to be a Prog Metal song, even trying to not be a Prog Metal song. But when you listen to some of the guitar lines they are very very close to what we consider Prog Metal nowadays. So, I think O. is riding the razor’s edge really sharply here, don’t you think?
Knut I think so too, and it’s when you get the title you imagine the blood running through your veins. You mentioned Prog Metal; I think it also has almost a Symphonic Metal take, without using the instruments that is normal for that genre. And that makes it so impressive, it’s like he is composing a symphony for each song. It´s really how he builds up this song with the short guitar solo before it quiets down just to build up the symphonic texture again, accompanied by the sounds of choir. I don’t know if it’s is a choir, but it sounds like it.
Thorsten Yeah, it definitely sounds like one, and he makes frequent use of that here on his record. And there is also something that shows us that O. is like a music historian because “Gewesten der Tijd”, mening, like regions or areas of time, maybe something like realms of time. I was wondering if it’s something like the realms of time.
This intro features something that sounds like a medieval lute which is then accompanied by short broken electric guitar parts. O. really takes his time to keep us on the chair’s edge just before the track transforms into, well into what?
Knut That track is very dark. It’s almost into the Doom Metal soundscape. First you have the acoustic guitar, then a lonely church that initiates something like a dark cathedral, as this is more Doom than anything on the album, with slow dark riffs slow, drumming, choir and deep bass vocals. Yeah, if I was to imagine what it is about, I would say it sounds like desperate and sorrowful choir of monks losing their faith. This is underlined by the mellow solo-guitar, the tempo shifts with blast drums and a tremolo guitar. This just extends the desperate and longing feel. Also, the vocals towards the crushing and imploding crescendo with church bells. It is like the cover of the Iskander´s Euprosopon would be a good fit to illustrate this song.
Thorsten I totally agree, because when you look at the cover of Euprosopon it’s that cathedral feeling and that is something that you get here in “Gewesten der Tijd”. You get that and you also get that throughout the whole album. I think that is also something that he is definitely aiming for and I totally love that, I totally agree. When he initiates the second part of the song, the one following the intro, I immediately thought of the cover of Euprosopon, which still to this day is one of my favorite Black Metal albums of the 2010s. And the track then also feels like watching a fire inside a church while we hear the one who caused that very fire, standing safe outside and singing, or rather muttering, some kind of incantation to keep the flames going higher and higher. And then we get ”Baken”, meaning something like a beacon or fire in Dutch which is, in my opinion, the most punky song. It’s in some ways very Black Metal in the old style musically, not thematically, but definitely structure-wise. I think that there is some kind of like old Scandinavian. You mentioned Emperor, I would say Mayhem kind of thing in there. It has a very punkish attitude, I think.
Knut Yes, it’s a contrast to the third song. ”Baken” is almost vibrant with the blast drums. It quiets down with the acoustic guitar playing slow over walking horses, the sound of crows and a choir strengthening the medieval atmosphere that this kind of music gives. It might be a nod to Drudkh, the Ukrainian band, because that band just like Negura Bunget also takes their inspiration from the history and legends of the land they exist in. That leads to the medieval and heathen atmosphere in the soundscape. And that is also what the early Norwegian bands did, still do. I agree with you on the Black Metal, real clean Black Metal atmosphere of this song. So we have the fifth song, ”Verbod”, that introduces – in the middle – the contemplative guitar strumming that has been also a trademark on previous albums. This song might be the most atmospheric of the whole album. Again, really like symphonic metal, but without the symphonic instrumentation.
Thorsten Would you agree that Iskandr is the most contemplative of all the Haeresis Noviomagi bands? I mean that is a collective that seemingly cannot sit still. So many bands. You have Turia, Lubert Das, Iskandr, Nusquama, Solar Temple, Fluisteraars and many more. It’s very hard to follow every release they have, but is Iskandr the project with the highest mind amount of stylistic freedom?
Knut I do think so and I think he uses that stylistic freedom. Although all through this album there are much influence from almost everything, and it drifts so well, this music. And the last song, ”Het Slot” is a really good composition that he has made there. It is built up by the acoustic guitar, distorted guitars and organ. In fact, the drumming has, like a mix of Djent and blast drums and it makes it in fact very dense, without being impenetrable. And as the songs trudges away it loosens more and more up, and after the guitar solo it disappears into thunder before an arpeggio guitar takes over. In the background there is both light music and dark bass drums. It becomes a river of other instruments in the dynamic flow towards the slow strumming acoustic guitar and a bell that ends the album.
Thorsten Totally agree, totally agree. So how would you in overall try to describe the album?
Knut It is, in my opinion, a very imaginative album. It is impressive how the current of the guitar, the choral parts, the inventive use of the drums, acoustic parts and sound effects make an eerie, medieval and heathen mood that is the trade mark of many Black Metal bands. Although Black Metal is often very cold, this music, although eerie, is warm and welcoming – luring you to be immersed in its soundscape. It is almost transcendental.
Thorsten It is, it definitely is. And I think that’s also for sure what O. is aiming at with his work in his Iskandr.
I remember a few days ago we were talking about how impressive the new TRNA record is and how great it is – I guess you would still say that up to now TRNA’s Istok is your Black Metal record of the year, right?
Knut Ah, well no. Because I myself do not quite see Istok as a Black Metal album. I see it more like a Blackgaze or Atmospheric Black Metal. I think it is more hovering and filled with much more crescendos which are not usual in Black Metal. But if you look at this album, the Iskandr album, this has to be the best Black Metal album of this year so far.
Thorsten I can definitely see this as a Black Metal album, definitely. And for me, I mean O. already released my favourite EP of 2020 with Gelderse Port. And now this to me is the Black Metal album of 2021. It’s an instant classic, it’s a must-have. It combines everything that I love about Black Metal, the fury and the anger, but also the contemplation and the attempt to redefine what Black Metal can be due to it´s freedom by nature. Black Metal can be anything, and that to me is Vergezicht out on Eisenwald Records from september 24th. Pre-orders are already up and you should be quick.
Knut Yes, I totally agree with you.