While Ildjarn’s self-titled demo is where the band’s sound really begins to take form, his debut EP, a collaboration with Nidhogg, is where the sound is truly mastered. Norse is twelve minutes of fast-paced, hypnotizing black metal. In comparison to the prior release, the songs are condensed and the harmonies are upgraded. The result is one of Ildjarn’s best recordings.
Norse sets the standard for the rest of Ildjarn’s black metal releases. The songs are all composed of the same small set of elements: buzz saw power chords, taut bass, and imperiously precise and repetitive percussion. In contrast to most Ildjarn albums, where the drums are real, Norse employs a drum machine. Ostensibly, it makes no difference, since Ildjarn's drumming style is very mechanical to begin with. The elements come together to create a sound that has the directness of punk and the catchiness of techno, but an aesthetic that is undeniably black metal. These songs capture a primordial violence; the vicious fervor of the hunter for the hunted.
The production is raw, but not quite as raw as Ildjarn and Forest Poetry. As a result, the riffs are easier to grasp and stick quicker. That’s good news, because there are some really great riffs on this recording. “Morklagt Sti” seamlessly shifts back and forth between a deep and groovy verse and a bouncy chorus. There’s just enough variation between the two passages to pull the listener up and down, but the overall uniformity is totally hypnotizing. “Svarte Hjerter” is a bleaker track that creates a foreboding atmosphere. “Nattens Ledestjerne” is a solid but unspectacular song; pretty typical song from this era of Ildjarn. “Natt Og Tåke” is a phenomenal piece with an undecipherable but nonetheless obsessively good chant along chorus. The song-lengths are perfect: just long enough to lock their hooks sink into your head, but not so long as to become redundant.
Norse is the perfect introduction to Ildjarn. Because the production is less abrasive and the album avoids the Tolstoyian length of Ildjarn and Strength and Anger, a newcomer will be less distracted by Ildjarn’s frills and can focus on the music itself. Many will be surprised by how effective this simple style of black metal can be (and those who don’t like it won’t have to waste their time sitting through an 80 minute album). Fans who have overlooked this EP should remedy that immediately as this is one of Ildjarn’s most engaging and effective records.