Iskandr – Vergezicht Review

Iskandr is a duo hailing from the Netherlands who purport, on their third full-length release Vergezicht,1 to play black metal with “battle-hardened” aggression and mythical atmospheres. I mean, what a great intro. I was already intrigued when I learned that the band drummer is one M. Koops, who makes up one half of Fluisteraars, a different black metal band from the Netherlands who stole my heart early last year. Seeming like a surefire formula for success, I was happy to snag Vergezicht for my own, furthering the hold that faraway land has on my life these days. Bring on the Dutch black metal!

Iskandr confidently play sweeping, epic black metal that borrows structural elements from Fluisteraars and melodic ones from October Falls. The eclectic talents of mastermind “O.” are on full display here: the album features all your standard black metal instrumentation alongside choral singing, trumpet, piano, a tambourine, and one (1) electric organ. It’s a lot to juggle, but make no mistake, the black metal reigns comfortably here, with icy riffs and snarling vocals taking up most of the spotlight – just with a bunch of support from a lot of unusual places. Behind the kit, M. Koops holds things together admirably, ensuring that Vergezicht sustains its feel as a work of melodic, at times atmospheric, black metal above all else. “Bloeddraad” is my favorite example, building an eight-minute song with an epic feel around high-pitched riffs and a galloping pace. You can nod your head to it, you can spar to it, you can give rousing speeches to boost morale before charging at your enemy’s assembled hordes to it. It’s a good, well-rounded song.

Really, though, it’s the choral singing and acoustic guitars that set Iskandr and Vergezicht apart in my view. The chants are low and menacing, reminding me of Ástíðir lífsins‘s style. The acoustic guitar makes infrequent and often subtle appearances in spots where songs take their moments to breathe. “Baken” makes especially good use of acoustic guitars, in particular in the song’s interlude, where all black metal ceases, making way for an acoustic guitar, some distant chanting, and the sound of bells to take over for a few minutes in one of the best moments across the whole of Vergezicht. The rest of the song, furious and energized, feels that much more potent for following such a gentle passage. “Verbod” is another solid example of a track that utilizes both these elements of Iskandr‘s sound to create a track heavy in atmosphere with engaging ideas and some really strong moments.

For all its strengths, however, I’ve found Vergezicht difficult to truly engage with for one simple reason: everything about this album is long. It has a total runtime of sixty-four minutes, divided among only six songs, all of which lean heavily on recurring themes to send their messages. There are many, many moments throughout “Gewesten der Tijd” that I think must mark the end of the song, and by the time closer “Het Slot” runs around, I can’t believe we’re only six songs in. And while there is a lot of varied instrumentation going on throughout, as I mentioned earlier, the guitars and vocals are front and center, leading to an experience that feels almost monochromatic in its execution. Vergezicht starts out with incredible promise but tends to really drag out its ideas, failing to justify its incredible length and making it an honest challenge to enjoy throughout its full runtime. It’s hard not to feel as though a little more editing might have gone a really long way on Vergezicht.

With good ideas, a lot of talent, and a lot of instruments, Vergezicht has all the makings of a great album, but its execution loses me partway through every time. That I enjoy it so much more when listening to it in pieces, as opposed to all the way through, says a lot about the impact of its bloat. There is so much talent, so many cool moments, and so much emotional resonance throughout this album. Unfortunately, these moments are scattered and inconsistent. Still, I want to stress that it does have its moments, and even though I can’t see myself returning to it much, I will be keeping an eye on Iskandr in the future, hoping for a more restrained release to follow.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Eisenwald Records
Releases Worldwide: September 24th, 2021

Show 1 footnote

  1. But I didn’t even sneeze. – Holdeneye
« »