Iskra_RuinsDespite what the general public may think, extreme metal is rarely written by extreme people. For all the songs about devouring maggot-ridden brains and summoning Shub-Niggurath, we all know that Corpsegrinder is really just a huge World of Warcraft nerd, and Trey Azagthoth is actually a closet Sailor Moon fanboy (and occasional emulator of the late Steve Irwin). Canada’s Iskra, however, is different. The self-described “Anarchist Metal” quintet is committed to more than just delivering viciously crusty black metal, as exemplified on their 2004 self-titled debut and 2009 follow-up Bureval. Instead, as the liner notes to 2015’s Ruins reveal, Iskra possess a steadfast devotion to their sociopolitical stance, with essay-length song explanations, seemingly well-researched statistics, and numerous quotes from postmodern philosophers like Michel Foucault and Jean Baudrillard. But how does this translate to the music?

Well, in the first few seconds of cutthroat opener “Lawless,” one thing is clear: Iskra is angry, and they want you to know it. Imagine Young and in the Way or Infernal Stronghold distilled and ignited with the relentlessness of Absu, and you get an idea of what’s at work here. The riffs, especially those on “Ruins” and “Illegal,” are frantic and acerbic, less concerned with concocting a memorable string of notes than generating a sheer sense of driving force. Likewise, vocalist Danielle’s rasps teeter on the verge of unintelligible mania, and the battering drumbeats are nearly unwavering in their assault. In fact, despite the “black metal” tag, there’s little atmosphere or melodic relief to be found anywhere on Ruins’ 42-minute runtime, just a raw, all-engulfing shitstorm that hits with the finesse of a circular saw.


By this point, I think I know what’s going through the reader’s mind: ‘great – a noisy, raw, blackened crust record that I’ll listen to once and won’t be able to remember the name of a single song afterward. Pass.’ But don’t leave just yet. Like Black September, Iskra keep the performances tight instead of sloppy, and seem to know that being one-dimensional is the Achilles heel of this style. Take early highlight “Predator Drone MQ-1,” which finishes its blasting with a destructive chug worthy of Stormcrow, or the societal condemnation of “Nihil,” whose main whiplash-inducing riff is later broken by a steady beat that demands for heads to be banged. For further variety, “Ruins” kicks off with a riff that sounds like those aforementioned North Carolina Youngsters having playtime with the Sons of Northern Darkness, while first-half highlight “Traume” forgoes a fast pace altogether in favor of a moody, measured tempo that does wonders for the album’s overall flow.

With a DR of 7, the production is just right for this style: forceful and blatant, but with enough texture so that even the bassist’s occasional forays from the guitar – as heard on the intro of “Aegis of the Victor” – are captured with excellent clarity. But honestly, by the time the tremolos and slithering acid-slinging riffs of closer “Battle of One-Hundred Slain” waft over the carnage, I’m headbanging all too hard to even care about the sound quality, and I’m just grateful that Iskra’s anti-capitalist philosophy inspires them to offer their albums for free download on their website (with PayPal donations an option if you’re so inclined). Politics aside, this makes things easy: there simply is no reason not to check this album out.

Tracks to check: “Predator Drone MQ-1,” “Nihil,” “Battle of One Hundred Slain”

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  • robpal

    Are you guys planning on revieving the new Martriden?

  • André Snyde Lopes

    Great find! There is an extra appeal when artists get really invested into their music and try to explain the concepts behind each song. You might say it doesn’t leave much to the imagination but the thing is that most black/death metal like this rarely is given a second look when it comes to lyrics/concept.

    I’m not saying I want Deathspell Omega to spell out (eh..) exactly what they mean by “Listen to the breathing of that which, in sick delectation and devouring famine, restores the new order by contamination and incubation.” but sometimes, it’s worth it to have an idea of what the artist is trying to communicate.

    Oh, and the music’s good, too.

  • Juscifer had essay explanations for the songs on District of Dystopia last year. Anarchy metal is so demanding. I just came for the rage. I’m not staying for the pamphlets. It’s like undergrad all over again.

    Also I really enjoy imagining this band playing in Canada before a crowd of polite Canadians. Between songs I imagine they try to talk about the benefits of anarchy and the oppression of living under the Canadian government and the audience is all, “I understand. There there. You have good ideas. Thank you for sharing your views.” “THANK YOU FOR COMING. DON’T FORGET TO TAKE A PAMPHLET.” “We won’t! Have a good evening then!”

    • [not a Dr]

      In the early 90s, the opposite happened to me: the crowd were the enthusiastic pamphlet distributors.
      I played for a while in a punk band whose other members had ideals and stood by them.
      They were in touch with their public and were involved in several causes.
      I was not as mature as them, and didn’t really care about anything else than composing and playing live.
      I joined because the music was awesome and they needed a new bassist.

      • Guillotine of Papal Crowns

        POSER xD

        • [not a Dr]

          Why are you wearing 20 holes Doc Martens when your band takes such a strong stand against animal exploitation?
          Why is there a tiny confederate flag on your Motörhead t-shirt? Are you racist? Your lyrics suggest otherwise… (Ignoring the fact that I have a spanish name and native american features. Maybe the KKK lowered their recruitement standarts)
          Hey! That’s not a local band t-shirt! You should be supporting your local musicians! ( I am a local musician: and, being the bass player, I’m supporting the rest of the band who also happen to be local musicians)

          • Guillotine of Papal Crowns


          • [not a Dr]

            Turns out no one really expected Her Majesty’s Counter-Culture Inquisition.
            Their questions and, later, your accusation, made me discover dark truths about myself that I didn’t even suspect: in that situation, I was a total poser. Even if I never even pretended to care or wear the anti-conformist uniform.

          • Guillotine of Papal Crowns

            I swear before the Almighty Emperor, Marneus Calgar, Roboute Guilliman and all the Ultramarines Chapter that I was joking and I didn’t mean no offense.

          • [not a Dr]

            No offense taken.
            I won’t be leaving the hall with the wimps and the other posers.
            Also, watch out:

          • Guillotine of Papal Crowns

            You, Sir, are a gentleman and my hat´s off to you :)

  • beurbs

    “extreme metal is rarely written by extreme people”
    True. Seems like the extreme people gravitate toward Country.

    • Alexandre Barata

      Carl Clang anyone?? ahahahah

  • Luis Miguel Chavez Ynojosa

    just today i find out BY MY OWN sunless rise released a new lp.. WTF guys, y had to create an opinion by my own and figurate out if i liked it or not (of course i liked it), THAT should be your next “things you might have missed” i’ll post the same rant on No clean singing in a while…. shame on you guys, making me think if i like something or not JA (sarcastic laugh)

  • Alexandre Barata

    Now, this sounds cool, no wankeries, no cheese, just straight up ham in the face!

  • Awesome record. This one was on my radar a while back, but has since fallen off, and I don’t think I ever got around to picking it up.

  • AlphaBetaFoxface

    I’m always excited to read your reviews, Mark! Terrific write-up as per usual, this album looks brilliant!

  • Worldeater

    This combination of brutality and anti-capitalist philosophy reminds me of Misery Index, which i like a lot. Thx for the review!