Isenordal - Requiem For Eirênê

Artist: Isenordal

Album Title: Requiem For Eirênê

Label: Prophecy Productions

Date of Release: 8 March 2024

There’s a time and a place for some funeral doom metal and, as I have discovered, that time is now. And it’s all thanks to a band that I knew nothing about until last weekend when I was standing in a field, freezing my nether regions off, watching my eldest daughter play Sunday League football. On the headphones came a sound that I’d not heard of before and it scared the living daylights out of me. That sound was exactly sixty-one seconds into the opening track of this album when, after being lulled into a false sense of security by a gentle-sounding organ melody alongside a lone viola, I was hit with something far heavier. The combination of slow, crushing, lurching guitar riffs and growled vocals that were almost subterranean made me immediately take notice such was their brutal intent. OK, so it didn’t really frighten me, but it did greatly impress.

And what kept me listening was the fact that the initial melody remained, lending the funeral doom an exquisitely poignant edge. The song to which I refer goes by the name of ‘A Moment Approaches Eternity’, and it is the first of five compositions to feature on ‘Requiem For Eirênê’, the third full-length release from Seattle-based sextet Isenordal.

However, at over fifteen minutes in length, ‘A Moment Approaches Eternity’ doesn’t follow the same pattern throughout. In fact, as it turns out, there’s quite a bit of variety to be enjoyed. Firstly, four of the six band members contribute vocals, meaning that you don’t just get those deep gutturals that can only just be heard above the distortion. Guitarist Kerry Hall, viola player Eva Vonne, keyboardist Lieu Wolfe, and drummer Brian Spenser all take turns behind the mic at various points. What this allows the band to do is play with light and shade rather boldly, because when the track explores stark minimalism or their American folk influences, the vocals are generally ethereal. And when the pace is shifted from glacial to more of a frosty black metal speed, we’re treated to higher-pitched rasps alongside the cavernously deep growls. What I most admire about the music, though, is the way that melody is never far away, even when the music descends into its most tumultuous sections.

If I could have my way, I’d have wanted a slightly less raw production to the album because, at times, the music does get a little hamstrung by a lack of clarity and an echoey muddiness. That said, no instrument is ever truly lost in the mix, even the bass of Jeff King, who also lists the cello, wooden flute and ‘additional strings’ against his name.

The introduction to ‘Await Me Ultima Thule’ is absolutely gorgeous, too. Initially, its just a piano and layered vocals that provide a gorgeously poignant and sorrowful sounding melody. But gently, the song builds, incorporating acoustic guitars and flute, then the full range instrumentation slowly joins until finally, the guitars of Kerry Hall and Gordon Greenwood enter to add the final metallic edge. Again, as with the opening track, Isenordal are not afraid to experiment with some stark minimalist passages, and on this song in particular, it is very pronounced but well-placed as it only increases the emotive qualities of what is arguably the most sombre and moving of all five of the songs. You can hear the sadness and melancholy whether it’s a lone viola, cello, or vocal that takes the lead, but even when there’s an unexpected blast of black metal aggression near the end, the angelic vocals maintain that air of misery very well indeed.

The much shorter title track is a mid-album palette cleanser, a quiet composition dominated by piano and female vocals. If truth be told, as delicate as it is, it fails to grab me in the same way as the previous two tracks. It has nothing to do with the lack of heaviness, more to do with the melodies, as they don’t work as powerfully for my personal tastes.

If you like the descriptions of the first two tracks, however, you’ll no doubt enjoy the final two cuts on ‘Requiem For Eirênê’ too. I especially love the organ intro to ‘Epiphanies Of Abhorrence And Futility’, whilst the more subtle melodies turn the composition into a genuine grower. To my ears, it feels like it’s a bit faster for larger portions because, after the initial dirge-like intro, the blasts of extreme metal occur more frequently. That said, the descent into cacophonic territory in the second half of the song takes a bit of getting used to.

Ultimately, ‘Requiem For Eirênê’ is an album that I have enjoyed quite a lot. The blend of crushing heaviness and brutality with more fragile and ethereal passages of folk-infused minimalism is one that I admire and take to willingly. I’d have liked a different production, and I find the final composition, ‘Saturnine Apotheosis’ a little light on the melody front when compared with the opening two tracks, at least for my tastes. Nevertheless, I have no qualms in recommending Isenordal’s ‘Requiem For Eirênê’ to anyone who enjoys well-crafted funeral doom metal.

The Score of Much Metal: 80%



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