On the whole, the black metal community—both fans and musicians—have an obsession with the idea of purity. Perhaps nobody actualizes this ideal as extremely as Ildjarn. While there is more diversity within Ildjarn’s discography than detractors would like to admit, he definitely has his own distinct sound. It’s an extremely concise, harsh and direct brand of black metal that either hooks you like lines of coke or leaves you totally cold, unimpressed and irritated.
In a discography loaded with extreme recordings, none is more difficult to endure than Ildjarn’s self-titled full-length debut. Ildjarn is a massive album, containing 27 tracks that span 75 minutes. The basic elements are the same as you will find on every Ildjarn black metal release: repetitive percussion, dense and rough riffs, pounding bass and dry growls. There is actually a good amount of variety, both in tempo and style. There are a few melodic, hypnotic pieces, such as “Som En Ensom Bong” and “Morkeheim” that are actually quite catchy. There are also some slower, doomy pieces like “Krigere” and the bass-driven “Himmelvelv.” Still, make no doubt about it; the meat of this album is harsh, fast-paced bite-sized pieces of hateful black metal.
Ildjarn is definitely an endurance test; sitting through 75 minutes of music this intense is enough drive most people into temporary madness, which is presumably the purpose of music this vile in the first place. This record is sonically abusive and violating; it’s a form of masochism that some people will become addicted to and others will run away from in horror. While I usually am one to get addicted to Ildjarn’s thrashings, there is one element I find unbearable on Ildjarn: the drumming. There is such a ridiculous amount of hi-hat and the same basic beat is repeated so many fucking times that it feels like the tone is starting to shred apart the central nerves in your brain. To make matters worse, the drums are absurdly high in the mix. Perhaps some fans enjoy this constant rattling sound, but to these ears, the drums overshadow the other elements, resulting in an uneven record.
Of Ildjarn’s three black metal full-lengths, the self-titled is definitely the weakest. It lacks the overall cohesion of Forest Poetry or Strength and Anger and the high pitched drum tone is a sound that even many Ildjarn addicts are likely of tire of before they hit track 13. Still, there are some rather interesting and unusual gems embedded within this record, so it certainly should not be overlooked.