ILDSKÆR – Paa dækket kalder de døde (2021)REVIEW

The halo of celestial church organ that eases in to signal the arrival of Danish melodic black metal duo Ildskær for their second official release, ‘Paa dækket kalder de døde‘, is the first of many inspired details that grow in value when the listener approaches their “Danish Historical black metal” self-description with serious inquiry. The roughly half hour EP is infallibly composed, with such a refined touch that one could easily vegetate within its beauteous streams of melody and be enraptured well enough but, there is yet far more of interest here beyond swaying streams of tremolo picked regalia. Within the duos work we are entirely bombarded with the pivotal militaristic heroism of a nation destined to their proud defeat, capturing an idealistic time for Denmark before industrialization and monarchy would arguably tame all but the infamous Danish national attitude and identity. A triumphal-yet-melancholic work in great harmony with the verbose historical subject matter in hand, ‘Paa dækket kalder de døde‘ is yet another reason you should’ve taken note of Ildskær when I’d recommended their debut full-length ‘Den Rædsomste Nat‘ last year.

Circling back to the church organ that plays during the opening moments of “Natten er Tyst” and the closing moments of “Den Sidste Orlogsmand” — This introduction via reverberating melody is an slight modulation of a Danish naval ode to a life cut short, it’s melody writ in the early 1800’s by Romantic composer and celebrated organist C.E.F. Weyse and given lyrics a half-century later, as “Kommer hid, I piger små“, writ by N.F.S. Grundtvig who’d dedicated it as a hymnal to naval compatriot Peter Willemoes a young war hero that’d caught a grenade while defending the warship Prinds Christian during the Battle of Zealand Point where the British would prevail in 1808. Context is everything here as (if you’d translated that song title) it reads uh, “Come here, you little girls” to start and though Grundtvig was Lutheran, and a key figure in Danish national history, we can still give him the benefit of the doubt as he calls upon young women to sing and tribute the charming young hero his lyrics tribute. The tradition of community gathered in song was championed by Grundtvig, a pastor, poet, translator, politician, historian and philosopher who is often portrayed as the glue that held together Danish national identity during darkest times. Even deeper context is available especially if unaware of the Den danske guldalder (or, Danish Golden Age) a hardly contained artistic renaissance within Denmark where German romanticism would influence immense boons in art, architecture, literature, philosophy and science amidst national bankruptcy, devastating citywide fires, and of course backyard/naval warfare with England and allegiance with Norway. It goes without saying that if we can glean this much context, panoramic set and setting, from a brief intro and outro humming through the surreal echoes of a church organ on a black metal album then we must’ve stumbled onto something goddamned worthwhile.

As far as what is new or different here compared to ‘Den Rædsomste Nat’, we can approach this EP as a limit test for how much of an “epic” expansion Ildskær can manage beyond the condensed 5-6 minute modus of their debut. We aren’t missing their core melodic black metal presence but this guitar work might initially appear diluted in some sense, trading some blustering dramatic impact for loosened atmospheric values, better drum production and overall cleaner mixing with less bluntly delivered arrangements. Consider that first album more in the realm of Forteresse and Asgrauw whereas the pace on ‘Paa dækket kalder de døde’ lands in my mind a bit closer to Monarque, a shade more subtle and atmospheric. That isn’t to say that they’ve leaned into these Romantic composer driven slow-dances entirely, each piece has at least a bit of a kick to keep the action from becoming a pure drone, my suggestion being that they take their time here and it’ll reward folks who’ve enough attention span to follow the lengthy passages that impress within. “Blodrøde Bølger” is a fine example, showcasing this dynamic sense of movement as it crests near the ~2:40-3:00 minute mark into the eased-but-aggressive peak of the song; There we witness the most condensed version of the piece’s motif before it is expanded and contracted for dramatic effect as the determined pace presses on, occasionally bursting into somewhat quiet double bass bursts, which do feel a bit soft compared to the stifled charm of the drums on ‘Den Rædsomste Nat’. The tumult of this song narrates the Dano-Norwegian alliance navy lacking in ships, resorting to strapping cannons to rowboats and outmaneuvering the Royal navy in many instances, highlighting the thrill of industrious “guerilla” naval warfare in what was likely terrifying and chaotic circumstance with this song lines up nicely, and I think that’d be the major takeaway in appreciation of the longer pieces on ‘Paa dækket kalder de døde’ — The imagery they’ve presented fits these increasingly ambitious and majestic songs nicely, even if I do miss the ‘to the point’ nature of the first record somewhat.

We end with the bloody events that our opening (and closing) hymn indirectly presented, the mass grave at sea resultant from the Danish-Norwegian defeat at the Battle of Zealand Point. I won’t dig through the details of this one, however interesting it is to me, because the band have done a fine job of documenting their influence and historical information elsewhere. I so greatly appreciate their willingness to provide context and education via social media and their distribution pages that I’d rather you followed them there and poured over their well-presented efforts. Why on Earth more black metal artists don’t wear proudly their similarly involved intellectual pursuits is beyond me, as I’ve found my time with Ildskær‘s work enriching, inspiring and informative, opening doors to countless hours of reading and musing over the art and literature that’d been influenced by the real events described. Even if the subject matter isn’t of interest to some, at the very least none could walk away from ‘Paa dækket kalder de døde’ suggesting that it were void of passion or artistry as there is palpable inspiration within it’s ~half hour three song run and their execution is satisfyingly complete and heavily repeatable for my own taste. A high recommendation.

High recommendation. (79/100)

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.
TITLE:Paa dækket kalder de døde
LABEL(S):Wolfspell Records
RELEASE DATE:March 20th, 2021
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp [All Formats]
GENRE(S):Black Metal,
Melodic Black Metal

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