Review : ISTAPP – "Blekinge"

IstappBlekinge
Release Date: June 8, 2010
Label: Metal Blade
Rating: 4/5

Their first demo release was in ’05, so Istapp is somewhat of a newer band. In fact, Blekinge is their first full-length release. At first look at their strange black and white album cover and with the knowledge that “istapp” means “icicle” in Swedish, I though, “oh great, another Black Metal band that sings about winter.” However, at closer inspection, there’s a creative mythology behind their music, which, as a musician who also approaches lyrics from a similar angle, is something I can appreciate.

Their tales, which can be read on their official Myspace page, tell of the ancient gods which ruled a dark, frozen planet called Earth. There was an invading force of filthy light which brought warmth and eventually begot the evil and all-comsuming human species. My synopsis sounds a little like Gwar, so you should read it for yourself.

The album tears into a ripping melodic Black Metal riff which sounds somewhere in-between Naglfar and Dawn. If eventually slows down and evens out a bit. The song moves to a very folky and melodic direction, which reminds me a bit of Kalmah, which is silly. The vocals also change to a half-sung and half-scream during the chorus, which sounds like something Alexi Laiho would do, which is also very silly. So the opening song turned out to be kind of weak. Fortunately, and unlike most albums, there are many better songs to come.

“Köldens Union” slows down a lot, though it doesn’t lack blast beats. It gets rid of the half-assed singing and introduces a male choir which is well done. “I Väntan På Den Absoluta Nollpunkten” is one of the highlights of the album. It starts off with a riff reminiscent of Dissection but eventually moves to a catchy, clean-sung chorus. The next couple tracks are also pretty amazing, notably “Snö”, which captures the spirit of Black Metal the most on the album. It also has a bit of a sing-a-long, regardless of whether or not yo can speak Swedish. Oh yeah—the entire album is sung in Swedish. Forgot that part.

“Fjällhöga Nord” begins with some clean acoustic guitar. It also has some very melodic riffs and brings back the catchy clean-vocal chorus. Track nine, which as far as I can tell is untitled, features some intriguing atmospheric sampling and synth work.

The production of Blekinge might be a little overdone to capture the cold and dark mood that Istapp is trying to achieve, but the guitar tone is fuzzy and gives a bit of a chill. At least there aren’t any obnoxious production issues such as an overly poppy kick drum or inconsistent guitar tone.

Overall, Istapp‘s debut full-length is amazing, especially when there’s so many unoriginal melodic Black Metal acts out there. It may not touch the greats of old, but that’s fine with me, because it’s obvious that they’re looking to do something fresh and new. They have a few different tricks up their sleeve—some I like, some I don’t; so, it will be interesting to see the direction they go with their next album.

Check out: 2, 4, 5, 6

1. Vinterriket
2. Köldens Union
3. 1160 (Miovik)
4. I Väntan På Den Absoluta Nollpunkten
5. Evig Köld Koncentrerad
6. Snö
7. Fjällhöga Nord
8. Bortgång Af Alvrödul, Ljusets Förfall
9. –
10. Blekinge

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