There are only two things I love more than metal music: video games and pro wrestling, and while I talk at length about my love of RPGs to those that listen, it’s not that often that I discuss wrestling. Growing up, I’ve been blessed with watching great matches over the years as they happened. Ric Flair vs. Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat for the WCW Heavyweight title. Mankind vs. The Undertaker at the 1998 Hell in a Cell. Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Bret “The Hitman” Hart at Wrestlemania 13, where both men did a double-turn. So you may be wondering why it is that I discuss historic matches in regards to Iskald‘s fifth full-length, Innhøstinga. This entire album reminded me of another legendary wrestling match…
Back in 2008, in a gymnasium somewhere in New Jersey, Jack Evans squared off in a match against the legendary Hart family’s equivalent to Nick Oliveri, Teddy Hart. Both men, while incredibly gifted and athletic beyond belief, proceeded to have a half-hour long match full of dives, backflips, springboard acrobatics, and absolutely no psychology, flow, or storytelling whatsoever. In comparison, Innhøstinga, while showcasing the talents of drummer/vocalist Aage André Krekling and multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Simon Larsen, remains a 52-minute album full of icy picking, pretty flourishes, stellar drumming, and some of the most patience-testing, ADHD-riddled songwriting I have heard from a black metal album in quite sometime.
I can’t knock the duo for trying, as there are good ideas abound within Innhøstinga. “Even Dawn Drew Twilight” has a peaceful moment near the middle that draws you in a bit. “Offer Av Livet” opens with a mean tremolo riff that recalls Enslaved‘s middle period. And throughout the album’s entirety, Krekling barrels through his kit like a madman hell-bent on annihilating everything in his path while also making sense of the insanity brought on by Larsen’s riffs and melodic runs. You can’t help but appreciate their considerable talents.
But I would also be damned, if I could recall just what I had listened to for any length of time. The biggest problem with Innhøstinga, lies in the fact that none of the songs contain anything particularly memorable. As soon as a song contains even a semblance of an interesting hook, such as the opening to “Offer Av Livet,” it’s abandoned without rhyme or reason to focus on another riff or idea without being given the chance to take hold. And I am not kidding when I say that every song on here suffers because of it. Picture Opeth‘s earliest material, but with less transitional flow, and you have a rough ballpark idea of where Innhøstinga‘s flaws lie. After listening to this album twice a day for a solid week, it never once grabbed or moved me to the point of recollection or even a passing play-through for sheer enjoyment.
Innhøstinga brims with musical talent and a wealth of ideas that, if given the opportunity, could have grown into a memorable, cohesive album rivaling the works of country-mates Enslaved or Borknagar. Instead, Innhøstinga plays out like the aforementioned Evans/Hart spot-fest where flips and dives, or rather good parts spread thinly here-and-there, override storytelling and flow. It’s not how many pieces of musical athleticism and flashy bits you can shove into a six-minute song, but rather how you let a compelling piece take root, grow, and flourish into something magnificent. Maybe Iskald will discover that someday.