Some bands bury themselves so far underground, it is amazing that we can actually find them. You need to be a tunnel rat for Norad to unearth them, though. And still, you will be able to find them only with some sort of nuclear-powered detection device. Or else they will just dig down further, like some giant metal mole in a cosmic rage.
A myriad of Black Metal outfits have already tried this hide-and-seek approach, wearing masks and threatening everybody and sundry with the Dark Lord, should they try to uncover their identity. But seldom have we come across a band like Ildra and their first-born Eðelland. This particular band is so invisible that they probably don’t even show in mirrors. Mystery history painted in dreary colors of the cold wastes of Kadath or something.
Ildra also revel in releases of cassettes. To celebrate otherness and whatnot manifested in a long-time goner of a technology of the distant past. But hey, at least they are not alone in that special type of kookiness that underground bands like to indulge in. Then they have that bizarre way of publishing their tune. Sources state that a first release took place in 2011 (!), but the LP went live in 2014 only, followed by the cassette in 2015. This is slow-motion taken to the next level. Just sayin’.
Websites and Social Media are not their strong suit either. When we checked out their frugal Facebook page (I am being diplomatic, it is damn useless), the Ildra Riding Association from Northern Ireland got its messenger glued to the page. Looks like the band went so far underground that even the mighty Facebook gets all swamped. Hoots! I was in the mood to send them happy horse lovers some starkly black metallic greetings from the fiery pit. But hey, here is some food for thought for our conspiracy theorists. Perhaps the happy riders ARE the real Ildra – we just don’t know it yet. Right?
But joking apart: The band might suck at social media, but – boy – do they master their metal. Eðelland, their one and only full-length record so far struts their stuff well. Ildra dispenses Black Metal for adults. The real thing, with atmospherics, dunked in somber colors. Summoning and Caladan Brood for the genuine metalhead, not plasticky drum machines and synth porn galore. Batushka, old-style Rotting Christ, and Bathory all in one giant threesome, fueled by extra-strong steroids. A mix of Melodic Black Metal and Folk Metal gone Pagan.
Why pagan? Because Ildra decided to cover the ancient Ænglisc ways, adorning their lyrics with the old language. The one used when Vikings roamed the kingdom of Wessex. And that should – at least in theory – get them into the Pagan Black Metal playing field. Because during that time the bitter fight between Christianity and the old gods was in full swing. Some of their brethren indeed flirted with the Nailed God since the Romans abruptly left this island’s soil. Whereas others steadfastly stayed with Odin and his brethren. But what better way than to cover that turbulent time in England’s history with this brand of Black Metal.
Now, Ildra take liberties, very tasty liberties. They do keep to the structures of Nordic Black Metal for sure, yet I truly love their knack for those juicy, yet still repetitive riffs. But then – oh what profanation – you’ll find those meaty solos in the midst of Eðelland‘s pagan chaos. Like the one solemnly marching about those blood-soaked battlefields in Swa Cwæð se Eardstapa. They actually got two in there: One of the doom-ish kind and the other so Iron Maiden that you wonder if we did not somehow misstate the genre. But if you look for the main course, the filet piece of the disk, then this track definitely gets the prize. Clocking at a surprising 10 minutes plus, it never bores and never gripes. Just a juicy A-grade straight 10/10.
Then you got this distinct doom component living in Eðelland‘s complexly patterned fabric. This one really scavenges these hunting grounds that bands like Balfor or My Dying Bride usually claim. I always get a kick out of Nu is se Dæg Cumen that – at about mid-point – displays one of the juiciest doom moments of the album. And all this firmly lodges into the other styles Ildra seamlessly change into. Not to forget the smattering of archaic instruments that pop up from time to time. But never disturb the pretty good flow and ominous blackened decorum of the album.
In short, Eðelland breathes some new life into a type of Black Metal that is difficult to come by these days. The doom, the meaty riffing, changes of tempi, the atypical use of solos, and generally solemn melodies bind into a pretty good flow. Ildra‘s mastery to concatenate past glories with an almost fusion-like selection of different styles and flavors leads to a delectable slice of Black Metal. And by doing that they placed themselves in this misty, ghoulish ‘space-in-between’ that links the underground and the vile mainstream. And this without ever fully emerging into the light. But just enough to be heard beyond the limited range of the die-hard Black Metal adepts.
Let’s just hope that new material will soon float our way. Lest they will wear things out, should they fall prey to the endless loop of re-issuing old stuff over and over again.
Now, where is my horse, my sword, and my armor? Battle awaits, the Norse just landed on the coast, and the little people from beyond Hadrian’s wall attack. Damn, it never stops, doesn’t it?
Ed’s note: The record made it onto the Intermittent Digest – Tome VII. Contrats!
Get dat tune: