Archive for Istapp

Istapp – Frostbiten

Posted in Black Metal with tags , , , , , , , on August 18, 2015 by Badass and Grim


Are you feeling a little toasty after 3 months of Ra’s searing attention (or just uncomfortably sweaty following a similar period of muggy cloud-cover if you’re in the UK)? Worried about your supply of tundra-based shredding due to the increasingly acrimonious fallout from Abbath’s departure from Immortal? Then worry no longer, Istapp’s “Frostbiten” should more than tide you over.

Istapp have been active since 2005, based in Sweden, with a 5 year gap since the release of 2010’s “Blekinge”. They are also endowed with the frankly brilliant “Encyclopaedia Metallum” thematic heading of “Winter, anti-light, anti-sun, absolute zero”; so get back in your box hateful sky orb! Having been a fan of “Blekinge” I was keen to hear what lay in store with this second full length offering from the frost lords.

Although lyrically it is easy to reach for the Immortal comparison, Istapp are much closer to the duel guitar harmony wielding style and heavily rhythmic vocals of Taake, although notably more jaunty due to the folk influence. Title track “Frostbiten” combines all those aspects that most appeal about Istapp, swaggering out of the gate before dropping into the blast beat driven verse which compounds it’s intensity before soaring into the ancestral chant of the chorus, juxtaposed against the continuing rage of vocalist Isar.

Equally brutal is “Må det aldrig töa” proceeding moodily to the 50sec mark before a grim torrent pours forth, I hope you brought your thermals, because this shit is going sub-zero. What’s that in the distance? a helpful swede shouting from the opposite mountain, too late, the blizzard has resumed and pulled him down into a gaping chasm of whirling sterility below. Find your own way home.

Many of the tracks tend to swing between bass-blasting hail and upbeat folk riffing before inevitably both give way to more of those heroic tundra power-stance inducing guitar melodies at which Istapp so excel. It’s like eating spoonfuls of frosting [pun intended], you know there are more complex and balanced diets out there, but its so god damn tasty.

In this vein “Vinterland”, “Primim Frigidum” and “Vit Makt” should have you strolling manfully around on a hallucinatory tundra quest, while confused passers-by look on at the guy pulling exaggerated grimaces on his way down the Morrison’s freezer aisle, before being escorted out for smiting the discount stand with some frozen cod.

While there isn’t much variation across Frostbiten, Istapp do not overplay their hand, and by keeping the total record length at a well paced 36 minutes deliver a collection of hard hitting and well executed ice-storms. I feel cooler already, roll on the Fimblevinter.

Stay Frosty




Hagl – In The Heart

Posted in Black Metal, Pagan Metal with tags , , , , , , on May 2, 2013 by Badass and Grim

In The Heart

I was supremely interested to hear an example of Russian Black Metal since although familiar with bands from the surrounding nations this was one which was yet to grace my ears. So what can I tell you about Hagl? They’re style of BM is melodic, but none the less brutal for it, and without getting too deep too early, compares favourably with bands such as Istapp (Sweden). I assume the name derives from the Old Norse “H” rune Haglaz which stood for Hail, and so they stand firm in the grand tradition of BM bands named after inclement weather.

On that meteorological note, following the intro which is comprised of sinister Russian on a synth base (tasty), the first song “Heavy Gale” displays a great variety of rhythm and pace which keeps the sound fresh and interesting. Opening with a washed out treble only tremolo that’d fit right into a Helrunar album, the track begins with a straight blast, it’s like a fucking full speed death-train, with vocals furiously panning between speakers. Then things get really interesting, as after a brief bass break there is a progression into a slower section which moves through interesting chord progressions and discordant harmonies before dropping back into the maelstrom for a race to the finish.

“Mors Triumphalis” lives up to its name, where BM can often be aimed at expressing despair or a sense of loss, the refrain here is savagely triumphalist. “Mors Triumphalis is the will’s triumph, Impulse of heroes who disdained demise. With clear mind, not in delirium’s dusk – Towards their death, with wide-open eyes!” The guitar harmonies here are rising and brook no compromise, you’re can fight and die for glory or you can go home.

Next is a nice simple concept we can all get behind “Thunderstorm”. Again, Hagl keep things interesting by working through a variety of musical ideas, with full out brutality tempered by acoustic interlude and storm/thunder samples. The high point is when at 2:52 they put their collective band boot to the floor once again and unleash a melodic frost storm of freezing hate. This is carried over into “Howl of the Wolf”, as is the band’s use of samples which match up with the name of the song with the titular howls rising over the guitars. I kind of wish there was a track on here called “Ice-Cream Truck and Fucking Foxes” just to see where they went with it.

Honestly, I didn’t really plan to get into a track by track guide here but that’s where it went for a bit, so a few words about the rest of the tracks. “Europe” is a more straightforward affair that while not really a stand out track will still get your head moving. “Above Death” features one of the album’s only guitar solo’s, which pairs nicely with a simultaneous vocal line. “The North” is a lyrical theme which Immortal fans won’t find unfamiliar. My only criticism here is that there’s some weird stuff going on with the cymbals during a riff which recurs through the track, I don’t know if this was intentional but its fairly distracting as shit keeps switching in the extremes of the panning. The final track “Wake Up!” opens with good acoustic guitar work, again very much like Helrunar, before breaking into the kind of epicness you would definitely save for last, there’re acoustic sections, the second melodic guitar solo on the album, twin harmonies, organ synth, and all the other audial fireworks you’d want to close with. (I say close, there is an outro, with the final melodic solo, which is somewhat spoilt by a lot of tremble end fuzz which again sounds like poor mixing).

The strength of this album is its variety, achieving a balance between blast beats, more rhythmically led sections, acoustic interludes, touches of synth, sparing soloing, and a strong vocal. This is the bands third full length release and comes a decade after their initial demo, and all those years of song writing and graft have paid off. I strongly recommend this to anyone with a taste for melodic Black Metal, solid song writing or standing in the freezing cold screaming at the sky.