Here’s a little bit about Istapp to get you to understand what kind of album I’m reviewing: These guys are from Sweden, their name translates to ‘icicle’ and they define their musical style as black metal. Okay, so let’s reword those three facts: A Swedish black metal band whose name is synonymous with winter and sharp, pointy objects. Yeah, I know EXACTLY what I’m getting into. If you’re into black metal, so should you. But how does this fare against all the other black metal releases that come out? Well, you know the drill! Check out after the jump!
The album starts off with ‘Vinterriket’ (which, if I’m correct, translates to ‘Winter Kingdom’), a track that, as heavy as it is, never lets go of melody. There is nothing exactly technically impressive or mind-boggling about any of the instrumentation but that’s what makes it so satisfying: You can just sit back, listen and enjoy. Immediately, I noticed how old-school this song sounded. Something about the production. Something about the composition. I can’t explain it, but it brings up a sense of nostalgia and is very comforting. It’s almost as if Istapp managed to record using old 90’s studio equipment and yet still got a solid sounding album out of the process. But I digress: ‘Vinterriket’ has great melodies, a solid hook and, if I were able to speak Swedish, I’d be singing along. The music is also very light-hearted (as much as a black metal song can be). This is something I noticed throughout the rest of the album: The music doesn’t sound evil or sound like it was meant to inspire fear and unease in the listener.
The production, as stated above, has a very old school feel to it. The guitars sound like they were recorded through old tube amps. You guitarists know the kind I’m talking about: The ones that become holy grails rather than paperweights. The bass sits very nicely in the mix and compliments the guitars perfectly. The drums sound perfectly fine but are nothing to exactly write home about. The vocals are well done as singer Mordechai von Renvaktar shifts from growling screams to clean, almost folk-esque chants. The additional elements (bells, strings, keys, etc…) are sparsely placed but are beautiful additions to the album.
It’s an absolute pleasure to hear music that reminds me of the old days of black metal but as much as I enjoy this album, it doesn’t exactly bring anything terribly original to the table. Still, I highly recommend this to fans of the black metal genre or for people who are looking to get a black metal album that doesn’t sound completely evil (musically).
4 out of 5 skulls