I’m going to go ahead and proclaim Isenordal‘s debut, Shores Of Mourning, one of my better new discoveries to emerge in 2017. It may still be early in the year — and my personal lackadaisical approach to new music hasn’t helped either — but don’t let any of that take away from how impressive and transcending this neofolk/funeral doom project is. Dark and addicting, Isenordal have created something that will continue to mesmerize us long after the first several spins have elapsed. I would not be surprised in the slightest if additional praise resurfaces as we approach this year’s conclusion.
Based in the Cascadian United States (Seattle), Isenordal has only been doing their thing since 2013. I mentioned that this was their debut full length and I mean that. I have literally no knowledge of any work preceding this album. The fact that I also made no attempt whatsoever to track down any aforementioned earlier work is beside the point. That said, this debut certainly is indicative of the influences stemming from their surrounding environment, but there is so much more to Shores Of Mourning than that…
In the earliest stages of this album, specifically referring to the opening title track, Isenordal does a tremendous job of enticing us into this record. The mysterious swaying of the keys and strings at a delicately deliberate pace couples well with the whispered screams that serve as the primary vocal layer to this album. From there, hauntingly gorgeous clean female vocals kick in as the cadence begins to gradually build upon itself. It is a haunting yet captivating range of sounds. Interestingly, the interplay between strings and percussion is almost Dead To A Dying World-esque… but a much more ambient version. It’s a lot to absorb over the 11 minute opening track runtime, but they introduce enough to keep us intrigued.
Naturally, this isn’t the only lengthy track on this record. It is the longest by a few minutes to be clear, but no other track clocks in at under seven minutes. So basically, there is a lot of absorb and work with within this album’s ambition. The good news is, that while these haunting melodies serve as a foundational personality to this record, substance and density surfaces at just the right moments. Take the opening minutes of the second track on the album, “Of Winged Fire And Crawling Shadow”, for example. While staying true to its roots, this offering serves up far more depth on what we were originally introduced to. Stronger, more noticeable riffs, with hollow chants and fuller percussion bring a much appreciated weight to this listen.
As we move through the remaining album, which is another four tracks covering 25 minutes or so, we continue to appreciate the diversity in the musical influences. Blast beats and tremolo picking from “Pyres At Nightfall” and “A Gallows Prayer” offer what are probably the most deliberately black metal elements we are going to experience here. It’s an interesting fusion of sounds, really. Combining blackened doom metal with neofolk and gothic elements is a curious endeavor to say the least. But given the organization and progressiveness of the structure of these songs, everything comes together brilliantly.
Aside from a few moments here and there that tend to drag on the later stages of the album — that’ll happen with tracks this long and doom/goth influences as strong as these are — I am very impressed with the debut from Isenoral. Shores Of Mourning is a mesmerizing listen you can truly drift away in, especially on a dreary day. It still brings enough raw energy to keep focus and intrigue. An impressive debut for the group out of Cascadia. Plenty of reasons for optimism in the years to come.
“Ein Bier… bitte.”
Shores Of Mourning was released on March 25th, 2017. For more information on Isenordal, visit the band’s official Facebook page.