Isrike – “Hailaz Balwa” Album Review


Hailaz Balwa is the latest album by Isrike released TODAY on Darker Than Black records.

It is preceded only by 2 EPs released last year.  So what separates this album from the masses?  We’ll get into that more later but let’s begin with the fact that geography separates the members.  Sweden (Vitharr – All Instruments), Germany (Skuggi – Vocals, lyrics) and France (Erszebeth – Backup Vocals).

I like to be well prepared with research for my reviews.  But every now and then, I feel it appropriate (especially in the case of new releases) to let the artists speak for themselves. I had the chance to ask Skuggi a few questions:

Please introduce your members, what instruments you play and your locations.  I know you are in 3 different countries.  How did you meet to do Isrike and how do you compose/record?  Please give a brief history.

I: Hello, I come from Germany and am responsible for the lyrics and vocals.

The founder and head of Isrike comes from Sweden and is responsible for the whole composing and recording. At the end of 2015 he asked in a German Black Metal Forum for one who can write lyrics and record vocals for his project. So, that was my part. I really liked his kind of atmospheric black metal and we started our work only a week later. Our female choral singer from France was at this time already a part of Isrike. She joined some weeks before.

In 2016 we released our first two EP´s. The first one was “Utiseta” and goes in the Dark Germanic Heathenism direction. The second one “Among Sheep” is thematically about worldly things like hate, war and the criticism of the modern society.

Directly after the release of the second EP we started to work on our first album “Hailaz Balwa” what will completely deal again with the Dark Germanic Heathenism and spirituality.

For the album, we decided to record real drums instead of programmed this time. And so came our last German member to Isrike.

Hailaz Balwa is the new album to be released by Darker than Black next month.  What can you tell me about the release date and how you got hooked up with Darker than Black.

I: Hailaz Balwa will be released approximately in February 2017. I worked with the owner of Darker Then Black several times before and I was always satisfied with his work and quality. That’s the reason why I decided to choose this label for our new release.

Isrike’s members reside in three different countries (Germany, Sweden and France). Obviously this makes it difficult to assemble all members.  So, how do you record?…by sending files via computer?  If so, that is amazing because the album sounds like you all were in the same room.  

I: Yes, we us use a shared folder to exchange files. Vitharr sends me raw songs and I write lyrics and record vocals for that.

What are some of the musical and lyrical inspirations behind the tracks?  How has this been different than the first two EPs?

I: I think what inspires the musical side of the album is the typical mainly Scandinavian Black Metal guided with keys with and a tiny touch of Nordic folk music.

The lyrical inspirations are coming mainly from the dealing with the dark aspect of the Nordic spirituality and mythology. The most ideas of the lyrics came up when I was outside in the nature in the winter time.

The album follows thematically fully the path of the first EP “Utiseta”. So it´s all about the devotion to the dark aspects and gods of the old Nordic heathenism. Some songs are telling stories inspired by the Edda or other Nordic sagas and some are influenced by my own spiritual working.

On the musical side we reduced the volume of the choral singing and like I said we used real drums instead of programmed.

5. Many years from now a distant relative finds a copy of Hailaz Balwa hidden in a box in an old house.  What do you want them to know about you and the band from listening to the words and music?

I: Just grab a bottle of wine, sit down and let a spirit from the past possess you for a short time…………………………………

Hailaz Balwa will appeal to the vast majority of open-minded black metal fans.  The majority of the material is fairly mid-tempo with an occasional blast-beat.  Add to that the buzz-saw guitar and fierce vocals….speaking of which, the vocals sound like Gollum from Lord of the Rings gargling on sulfuric acid…not a bad thing at all.

Isrike needs no apologies for sticking to black metal roots. But there are clear distinctions that separate Isrike from the run-of-the-mill band with an album with black/white aesthetics, a frowning guy in the snowy woods posing like he’s holding up an elephant.  Clearly they are more concerned with making a memorable record; a good balance of cvlt sound with their own stamp.  Come to think of it, I had no images of the band to upload. So, let the sound speak for itself.

The stand-out track for me is “Journey Through the Worlds.”  This is like the soundtrack to a bullet-train ride through the Black Forest of Germany.  To put it simply, it’s just a great black metal album with one foot in the roots and one just outside of the proverbial box.

The 1st wave of black metal (i.e. Venom, Bathory) was known for being some of the first to use blatantly evil themes and images. The 2nd wave characteristics included a real raw production (i.e. Darkthrone), corpse paint and the aforementioned black/white aesthetics.

So maybe Isrike should be at the forefront of the 3rd wave and define it by bringing more memorable, catchy-as-hell recordings and plenty of power.  That’s right… I stepped out and said it.  Darker Than Black is really carrying the torch now between Isrike and Degesch.

Let’s put this into perspective.  You have 1 member from Germany, 1 from Sweden and 1 from France.  It sounds like Hailaz Balwa might have the potential to start World War III.

Hailaz Balwa Track List:

Intro                                                                                                                                                                   Possessor                                                                                                                                                               Loki                                                                                                                                                                     Muspells Eld                                                                                                                                                         Jarnvidr                                                                                                                                                         Skadwaz                                                                                                                                               Lokabrenna                                                                                                                                                           Thursian Race                                                                                                                                                     Niflheimr                                                                                                                                                           Cremation of the Creation                                                                                                           Gotterdammerung                                                                                                                                       Ran                                                                                                                                                                         Journey Through the Worlds                                                                                                                           Outro                                                                                                                                                 

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