This nascent Danish duo resurrects a tale of struggle and suffering.
Words by Ryan McCarthy:
Billing themselves as “Danish historical black metal", ILDSKÆR is a relative newcomer to the black metal scene. Having formed in 2020, it’s no easy task to gather information about the band; they don’t even have an Encyclopaedia Metallum page yet, a level of anonymity that’s practically unheard of in this day and age. By the group’s own account, they banded together “to bring you tales of Danish conflicts and mournful losses throughout the times.” Specifically, Den Rædsomste Nat ('The Most Terrible Night' in English) is about the British bombardment of Copenhagen in 1807, which was a British action to seize or destroy the Dano-Norwegian Fleet, in order to avoid its seizure by Napoleon's forces. This sort of historical hyper-specificity immediately reminded me of DEPARTURE CHANDELIER, another band whose entire lyrical and aesthetic shtick is recreating and reviving military conflicts from the 1700s and 1800s. So, as an avid armchair historian and an even more avid black metal fan, I had a strong suspicion that this record would be right up my alley.
Given the relative youth of the band, it goes without saying that Den Rædsomste Nat is the band’s first release. That fact only serves to make this release even more impressive, and more enjoyable by extension. ILDSKÆR straddles the line between raw and more polished black metal styles; you get the impression that they aren’t intentionally lo-fi, it’s simply a reflection of their unconscious musical influences and conscious aesthetic package. And the aesthetics are honestly right up there with the music. One half of this Danish duo, Simon Garðarsson, bills himself as a Dark Artist and Illustrator, and he clearly knows his way around his graphic design software. Just take a look at the band’s bandcamp page; the attention to detail is superb and very clearly intentional. The band’s promo photo even matches the album art, which was painted by C.A. Lorentzen in 1807-1808 and is also named Den Rædsomste Nat. It’s quite apparent that ILDSKÆR cares deeply about their nation’s culture and history and wish to share that passion with the listener, via both their music and their visual approach.
The first track on this record, Rædselsnatten, kicks off with a sample of a thunderstorm with some pensive organ swelling beneath it, establishing a very moody and dramatic ambience. It’s quite clear from the jump that this record is going to emphasize an evocative atmosphere in its compositions. In true old school Scandinavian fashion, the riffs borrow heavily from early ‘90s pioneers, lending a very rock-oriented vibe to the tracks and songwriting on Den Rædsomste Nat. Before anyone misreads me, I’m not claiming this band is black n roll to any extent, but the importance of traditional hard rock and metal elements is obvious to anyone familiar with the Nordic pioneers, especially considering that the individuals in question grew up listening to the likes of BLACK SABBATH, HELLHAMMER, and MERCYFUL FATE. The riffs on Rædselsnatten and throughout the record in general are melodic and catchy, giving them a memorable and bombastic quality that a lot of newer, more dissonant black metal lacks.
The vocals are traditional black metal wretches. They have a lot of body and presence and rely on reverb but aren’t necessarily carried by it. I think the visceral intensity that the vocal delivery adds is a really crucial part of why I enjoy this record so much. On a related note to the vocals, “[a]ll lyrics of this album [are] written in the old Danish tongue, as it was written in the 19th Century. Both our own and the ones included from famous Danish Poets and Authors.” It’s no secret that I love bands who write in their native tongue, even if said tongue is one I can’t necessarily read with anything approaching competency. In today’s over-globalized world, it’s nice to see bands who emphasize the local rather than the universal. The sounds coming from the drum kit are very raw. We definitely aren’t looking at a record that’s bogged down in overproduction. Everything feels very stripped down and natural sounding, almost like a demo tape or a live recording would sound, while still clearly highlighting the obvious talent of the band’s members.
All in all, I’m thrilled to have discovered this release and hope everyone else enjoys it with equal (or at least relatively similar) fervor. ILDSKÆR is a band that excite and sparks my imagination, and that’s more than I can say about 90% of the new bands I check out on a weekly basis. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for these gents.
Den Rædsomste Nat drops September 2nd via Wolfspell Records. Get your copy HERE.