Inspired by the firebrand of Quorthon and the escalating rip of first wave black metal’s growth beyond speed metal roots León, Mexico born musician Ishtar is a man possessed by the old coffin spirits of 90’s black metal. Though he’d spearheaded several small projects throughout the freedom of post-millennium homespun extreme metal landscape (see: Moonlight, Sorrowful, Isolated) most of this output would not truly kick into gear until he’d moved to Scandinavia and began to split time between Norway and Sweden. In forming Dødsfall as a pure evocation of second wave Scandinavian black metal the entrance unto this last decade saw Ishtar highly prolific, seemingly dedicating all of his free time between four main projects, each with different niche sub-genre interests employed. Though I’d been familiar with his work in death/doom metal project Sorrowful for years, ‘Døden Skal Ikke Vente’ serves as my introduction to Dødsfall despite their decade long existence. Through no small amount of consideration I believe the greater fires of Ishtar’s self-directed inspiration are honed best within the black metal majesty of Dødsfall. The progression of the artists approach reaches an undeniable peak on ‘Døden Skal Ikke Vente’ while the ever-broadening, moderately accessible style within should feel like a new more professional band entirely.
Only a completionist in need of the biggest possible picture would venture back to the first album from Dødsfall, ‘Den Svarte Skogen’ was self-produced puritanical second wave black metal from a band that would largely go through the motions until developing a relationship with Devo (Marduk) at Endarker Studios who would handle their third album ‘Djevelens Evangelie’ (2013) in full. This was the first great peak that the project had been building towards and though the sound and style might appear average at a glance, the greater fandom for bands like Taake, Urgehal, Tsjuder etc. could find major points of interest within. That first greater step up into sonic fidelity, and grand performance from Svarthaueg‘s Adramelech, felt like a modern vision of gimmick-free second wave black metal almost indistinguishable between Norwegian and Swedish affect. The next big step saw Dødsfall signed to Osmose Productions and tasked with ‘bigger and better’ resulting in a collaboration with Tomas Skogsberg at Sunlight Studios with Devo once again refining the mix. If you dropped your interest of the band with the resultant ‘Kaosmakt’ (2015) I’d be empathetic. It was overblown and bassy, a gas-bloated record that is now cleansed by the space of four years and the triumph of ‘Døden Skal Ikke Vente’.
Perhaps the compositions are more melodramatic and generally ambitious but I could comfortably say that Telal (Kvalvaalg, Sarpedon) offers the finest drum performance on a Dødsfall record to date with fills, changes, and a pristine stomp within the spaciousness of Tore Stjerna‘s (Necromorbus Studios) guidance. A powerful and balanced sound allows the breadth of Ishtar‘s ambitions to finally display beyond ‘Djevelens Evangelie’ as he begins to embody the adventurous hi-fi spirit of post-2008 Taake while giving seeming nods to Immortal and Dawn along the way. Surely neighbors such as Isvind and Djevelkult do something similar but smaller touches, such as the unforgettable piano exodus of “Hemlig Vrede” and the ‘Damned in Black’-esque riffs of “Ondskapelse”, that make for a vibrant and impassioned listen completely unconcerned with any sort of true Norwegian cult sound or Swedish brutality. Though this ebullient growth is evident through examination of the full discography of the project, what primarily interests me as an admittedly new fan is the remarkable attention to detail in terms of Ishtar‘s guitar work on ‘Døden Skal Ikke Vente’. His writing might not always provide stunning revelation but, at least remains captivating throughout each full listen.
The curse of receiving a boost from the upper echelon of modern black metal production quality in a truly inspired and crowded landscape typically conjures jaded disinterest from the feigned elite. In this sense to come seeking raw or atonal guidance through spectral hell would be misguided. A moderately ‘melodic black metal’ sound given boost by thrash and elegant nuance alike defines this release. It brings to mind the ‘fresh’ hit of ‘Hordalands Doedskvad’ back in 2005, not the music itself but my own personal reluctance to name a ‘modern’ high watermark. Dødsfall bring substantive musical value with admittedly familiar texture and stylistic notes, offering a black metal record that flows with grit and emotive quality; The point of personal contention with the full listen comes with the resemblance to other artists I’ve followed for years. It works brilliantly in a world of ‘for fans of’ extreme metal but from a most objective standpoint the greater value I find personally exciting comes from the inherent stylistic familiarity of influences. A common, relatively meaningless, assertion outside of irascible objectivity. Nonetheless, this fifth full-length from Dødsfall is an above-average creation that will hold broad appeal. I can give moderately high recommendation here because I value the simple pleasure that ‘Døden Skal Ikke Vente’ provides, a refined and expressive 45+ minutes of modern Scandinavian black metal. For preview I think “Ondskapelse” gives a glimpse at Ishtar‘s love of the thrashier side of Immortal alongside the more subtle Inquisition-esque hints on “I De Dødens Øyne” and if still not entirely convinced the opening track is fittingly memorable as an introduction.
Mind-rending oaken sorcerer. 4.0/5.0
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