I’m not alone in greeting post-black metal with suspicion, and generally with good reason. Unlike the “Second Wave”, which exhorted the Romantic qualities of might, rebellion and elitism, the more recent evolution of black metal seems to me to wallow in self-doubt, lethargy and a bleak acceptance of human frailty. However, there are two truths surrounding post-black metal which I must praise:
- It is heavily influenced, musically, by one of my favourite acts – Burzum
- It has played a sizeable role in promoting non-Satanic spiritual philosophies within the wider genre (often with depth and authority).
Whilst the tendency towards short hair and plaid shirts is understandably repellent to the leather-bound warriors of old, I, again, cannot help but concede that the philosophical depth of post-black metal acts is often more credible than that of the traditional crowd – more substance than style.
Ifing are affirmatively black metal, rather than post-, and I have no interest in reporting on their personal fashion-sense. However, they owe to post-black metal their liberal willingness to dwell on melancholic slow passages and clean vocal sections. They are also, more significantly, a staunch proponent of the heritage-based thematics advanced by many of those bands who have parted ways with the conventions of the genre – specifically: Northern European mythology.
Based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Ifing are two friends — Fritz Petersen and Tim Wicklund – who came together in 2010 with a clear vision. Their philosophical bent is to portray the loftier aspects of Norse lore – life, death, creation, and origin. This is not something that can be found approached quite so candidly in the works of Windir or Bathory – a difference which is beneficial to the less Romantic perspective of later black metal acts. Whilst every spiked leather jacket has been paired with a Bathory t-shirt at some point, Ifing quite obviously share as much of Quorthon‘s sensibilities as Niflheim or Watain do; such is the epic nature of Against this Weald.
Musically, Ifing owe the success of their sound largely to the synth arrangements. This instrument provides the same gut-wrenching impact as the intro track on Enslaved‘s Blodemn, and provides much the same atmosphere – one of sea-going Norsemen full of courage and doom. These powerful, atmospheric interludes are in turn interrupted by cracks of thunder and often the unannounced presence of blast beats, icy riffs and rasping vocals. The attentive listener will notice the clever use of bass guitar throughout too – which is usually the mark of real craftsmen in black metal.
On first listen, these three songs can seem unremarkable to those who’ve sought epic black metal for many years – they can be mistaken for mere attempts at recreating Windir, Moonsorrow, or later Enslaved’s sound, but there’s a darkness here which is rarely found elsewhere. I’d be more inclined to compare Against this Weald to England’s Wodensthrone or Winterfylleth, yet not close enough to belittle its unique quality. This becomes increasingly true with each listen. The only fault to be found is its meagre length of just over thirty-five minutes – temporarily solved by hitting the play button again.
01) The Sires Beyond Await
02) The Stream
03) Realms Forged