They say everyone has a novel in them. But you could say the same thing about black metal. Anyone with half an intellect and a passing interest in music has a BM solo project in them. Like the simplicity of football – which needs just a piece of flat land and a round ball – DIY black metal requires a bedroom, FL Studio software and a basic grasp of guitar and drums. The vocals are easy to improvise, the production can pass itself off as raw if the final product is atrocious, and the preferred route of anonymity means you can unleash your wildest execrations without anyone guessing your identity. We all have a dark side and need to vent, right? What can be better than the cloak of black metal to hide behind?
Iscuron is a one-man project from the north of Italy. Most of the above features apply, yet a streak of iconoclastic originality runs through the music. This could be a game-changer if the composer bothered to thicken the guitar sound and intensified his vocals. Opener, ‘The Silent Storm’, introduces light piano sprinkles and maudlin cello notes with creeping keyboard strings. A surprise bleep of mellotron illuminates it further until the tame blast beats and lo-fi guitars take over. How strange that the atmospheric black metal sounds stale compared to the epic keyboard melodies. Has the author forgotten the key components of metal – heavy guitars and livid aggression? ‘Princess of a Dead Land’ is even more challenging with its blend of Enya and Blut Aus Nord. The melodies flash before your eyes like beacons of light underneath a crescendo of keyboard strings and scintillating harp effects. Yet the muffled drum snares and indistinguishable guitar chords cool off rather than aim for boiling point. This is the standout song of the album and could be even better in its imperious stride with chunkier guitars and vocals that go beyond a raspy lisp.
Incorporating as many genres as possible seems to be the aim here. ‘Mighty Winter Night’ thrives on a melancholy accordion and woodwind samples. Comparisons are difficult but imagine if David Sylvian of 80s synth-pop artists, Japan, played black metal… Not easy to envisage, right? Of course not, but it gives an indication of the restless energy and determination to create something original.
Unfortunately, the dreadful production and mix on ‘Everlasting Realm’ captures every cliché of the anonymous black metal misanthrope who resides in his bedroom and spends his time reading Nietzsche. The guitar distortion is straight from a 15-Watt practice amp and the drumbeats are more primitive than tapping a plastic lunch box in a moment of idle contemplation. Why bother to employ fry screams if you’re going to do them with so much lethargy? The onerous vocals continue on the title track, which embraces a sudden shift into EBM/ cyber punk and aims for the same mood as the latest album from Pulse. The tempo is good, but the mix is flat, and the drum accents are worse than Meg White of The White Stripes. You might even press stop at this point of the album if patience is too much of an indulgence for a busy day.
For a record that started with much promise, The Nothing Has Defeated Atreyu fades into mediocrity before we reach the mid-way point. This is unfortunate because the composer demonstrates a talent for song-writing and occasional moments of innovation. Only on closing track, ‘In the Darkness,’ do we get something approaching the supreme imagination of the opening parts, thanks to an enchanting rhythm and tribal melody that could be from a Kate Bush record.
It’s clear where Iscuron can improve on the next album. We need a semblance of metallic guitar riffing and more aggressive vocals. The ideas and imagination are impressive, but the execution is sub-standard. Album number two is make or break for this artist.
Release Date: 11/01/2021
Record Label: Self Released
Standout tracks: The Silent Storm, Princess of a Dead Land, Mighty Winter Night
Suggested Further Listening: Hulder – Godslastering: Hymns of a Forlorn Peasantry (2021), Pulse – Adjusting the Space (2020), Noitatalid – Furies in the Steppes from Russia! (2020)