For most of us, our introduction to the new album by Iskandr came through a video for the song “Bloeddraad“. It presents a fascinating collage of images, and the music is equally fascinating. It’s the sound of a sinister dream, an embroidery of acoustic chords and ringing guitars, of bestial snarls and flesh-flensing screams, of shimmering synths and eerie, mercurial arpeggios. It includes a slower, spellbinding break near the end that features choral vocals and a feeling of rising, ominous grandeur. And in addition to that, the song has tremendous visceral appeal, thanks to a simple but compelling drum rhythm, accented by bursts of rumbling double-bass.
That was an extremely tantalizing teaser for the new album Vergezicht, but its multi-faceted power was not surprising, given the high standards that this enigmatic Dutch duo had already established through two previous albums and two previous EPs. As tantalizing as “Bloeddraad” is, however, it doesn’t present a complete picture of the experiences that the entire album creates. Vergezicht is, after all, more than an hour long, and it’s that long because the scope of Iskandr’s musical ideas and techniques was wide-ranging. Nor does it represent simply another iteration of the stylistic ingredients of the album that preceded it.
Some sense of this is evident in press materials for the album, which make references to Bathory’s mid-era albums, King Crimson’s In the Court of the Crimson King, the early works of both Enslaved and Hades, as well as Neurosis’ A Sun that Never Sets. Those references are tantalizing in themselves, but also don’t fully capture what Vergezicht presents — and indeed, becoming immersed in the music itself from beginning to end is the only sure way to understand it. Fortunately, you can do that now via the full streaming premiere of the album that we’re presenting in advance of its September 24 release by Eisenwald and Haeresis Noviomagi.
The musical textures revealed over the album’s hour-long course are elaborate and contrasting. They include orchestral synths and electric organ tones, the ring of chimes and bells, piano keys and trumpet fanfares, the glimmer of tambourines and the strumming of acoustic guitars, and a selection of field recordings that suit the moods. These ingredients (and more), as well as an array of choral voices, help carry the music into worlds of wonder, both mystical and pastoral, both heroic and grand. They make the music feel transportive, both elevating the listener to enable visions of vast natural sweep and creating time-travels into ancient pagan eras.
Equally important, of course, are the ingredients of savagery in the music — the ferocious growls and howls, the ravaging riffs tuned to the grit of sandpaper abrasion, the heavy, tumultuous bass lines, the spine-shaking drum blows. At times, Iskandr deploy these forces to attack, at others to draw the music under the dark mantle of devastating loss, accompanied by solemn baritone pronouncements.
You will pass through many shades of light and dark before reaching the end, encountering soft and hypnotic passages as well as movements of towering splendor, ravishing assault, and harrowing despair. Relatively simple constructions generate feelings of solitude and sorrow, and elaborate combinations of multifarious sounds and sensations send the music to breathtaking crescendos. Throughout the album’s extravagant excursion through places and times, the drum patterns and progressions always seem perfectly attuned to what the music needs to create so many different experiences.
Trying to succinctly sum up Vergezicht would be a daunting task, but the one word that keeps coming to mind is “mythic”, and there’s a pervasive sense of reverence and homage as well. Grand ambitions have led to grand achievements. Discover for yourselves:
Further Details: Vergezicht was recorded, engineered, produced, and mixed by Iskandr’s mastermind O in Wageningen, Nijmegen, Utrecht, Ede and Rotterdam. Field recordings were captured at Veluwezoom, Oud Reemst, Groenekan, Berg en Dal, and Wageningen. The album was mastered by Greg Chandler at Priory Recording Studios. The album is available for pre-order now from Eisenwald, and soon from Haeresis Noviomagi:
Amazing record by a supreme band. Probably one of the few bands that really works on building atmospheres. AOTY