Ildjarn’s 1993 self-titled demo is where the one man band’s signature sound begins to take shape. After releasing a pair of demos consisting of bulky and plodding mid-tempo cuts of bloated black metal, Ildjarn made some major amendments to his sound. Ildjarn kicks the music up a notch, playing meaner, harsher riffs at faster tempos (though this demo is still a step slower than the pace found on most the tracks of Ildjarn’s full-lengths). The taut bass provides a stellar compliment of counterpoints to the main riff. The drums are efficient and as precise as a metronome, but not quite as monochromatic as some other Ildjarn recordings.
Ihsahn of Emperor fame provides the session vocals. While his vocal performances on the early Emperor recordings (especially Wrath of the Tyrant) can be quite obnoxious, here he gives a solid if unspectacular performance. His voice is a little more spooky and serpentine than Ildjarn’s harsh and direct growls. While Ildjarn’s vocals would have served just fine here, Ihsahn’s performance in no way detracts from the recording. If nothing else, it provides the self-titled demo with a novel dimension.
At its best, the demo provides riffs that grab the listener by the throat and refuse to let go. “Ild” has a great central riff that revels in predatory fervor. “Støv Og Aske” has an entrapping hypnotic riff that foreshadows the entrancing melodies of Strength and Anger. Sometimes, the songs can drag on a bit too long. Tracks like “Sola Skjultes,” and “Fjerde Dag” are interesting at first, but wear out their welcome after the first few minutes. This is one of the last lessons Ildjarn still had to learn; if you want to play simple songs composed of only one or two progressions with little variation, you better keep the song lengths short.
This demo stands as a key moment in the development of Ildjarn. The basic sonic elements are all in place; all that remains wanting is refinement of the songwriting. There are enough impressive moments that Ildjarn fans will not want to leave this demo unheard, but newcomers would be better off starting their exploration Ildjarn’s discography with his next recording, the Norse EP.