Love him or hate him, Ildjarn's music is sure to evoke an emotional response. Norway's angriest son recorded three full-lengths of unrelenting black metal during the early 90s, including the appropriately named Strength And Anger. Seeing a re-release by Season Of Mist in 2013, Ildjarn is as much as ever an antithesis to listener-friendly black metal. The son of the north star will probably never reach an audience outside of the self-professed underground cult, but an examination of his music is still in order.
Dissecting Strength And Anger is a futile effort, as the constant onslaught of horribly distorted riffs and cruelly brutal production can be a challenging experience. At its core, the album can be divided into two sections. The first 15 tracks, all imaginatively titled "Strength And Anger", are raw black metal in the most basic sense. A blitzkrieg of simple chords and misanthropic blastbeats, the songs tend to blend into each other in a occasionally hypnotic matter. Taking cues from the least refined Burzum-material, Ildjarn is a minimalistic take on chaotic black metal. Historical importance aside, this album will be nearly impenetrable for the first-time listener. Give it enough time though (the album is almost 80 minutes long), and the raging torrent of freezing black metal might grow on you.
The final three tracks on Strength And Anger could be seen as a transition piece in Ildjarn's discography. Departing from the intensity of his earlier material, the "Hate Meditation" tracks span over 30 minutes and burrow into more ponderous dark ambient territory. In typical Ildjarn-fashion, it's dark ambient in a very loose sense of the term. With only a handful of prolonged keys and samples stretched across 15 minutes each, with a short instrumental interlude, these tracks are highly monotonous and demand patience. It's still drenched in dissonance befitting Ildjarn's eremitic character, but presents some degree of solace after the preceding 45 minutes of eardrum-abuse.
As I'm reviewing this album back to back with the reissue of Forest Poetry, a summarizing comparison feels appropriate. Whereas both albums are packed with extremely harsh black metal violence, the aforementioned contains an overall better collection of tracks. Strength And Anger is still a fine display of just how raw the genre can become without being completely unlistenable, but is sure to seriously test the endurance of anyone but the hardcore devotee.
(Online January 29, 2014)