Ifing - Against This Weald [Blood Music - 2014]“As the ancient Norse used their natural world and surroundings to create myths, Ifing use these same ideas to convey Viking anthems of creation, the end, life and death, the afterlife, and the dichotomy of opposing forces on our world and beyond.”
Ifing, according to Norse mythology, is the name of the river that separates the realm of the gods from the land of the giants. Against This Weald is Ifing’s debut album, released back in May (CD and LP) by Blood Music, a Finnish label known for its exceptional vinyl re-releases. Like the above quote alludes to, Against This Weald makes use of the dichotomy of opposing forces to create a narrative – an epic saga or myth told through the clash of black metal and European folk.
Like all good stories (and what are sagas if not stories?), Against this Weald begins with an introduction to lay the groundwork for what is to come. “The Sires Beyond Await” is composed primarily of dark, building, majestic synths that hint at both darkness and wonder. These brooding, haunting synth lines are accompanied by the sounds of crashing waves. Every time I hear this intro, the image of a proud Viking longship nearing a new land full of endless dangers and possibilities appears clearly in my mind. Tall, armored Norsemen regard the approaching shore with determined blue eyes peering out from beneath their helmets as they clutch their axes and shields in anticipation. It’s a brilliant mood-setting intro and one that is absolutely essential to listen to to fully appreciate what comes next.
The rest of the album is comprised of two long tracks, “The Stream” and “Realms Forged,” which combined likely make for the most immersive piece of black metal I’ve encountered since Caladan Brood’s jaw-dropping debut album last year. The competition between black metal and folk represents the everlasting struggle between life and death, creation and destruction, yin and yang. Dueling sections of black metal and folk exchange blows, thrusts, and ripostes in epic combat. The black metal sections are fantastically done examples of atmospheric black metal with a keen sense of melody and dynamics and demonstrate exceptional riffcraft. These sections are frequently accompanied by synths that lend an air of majesty and wonder to the already excellent riffs, further enhancing the epic atmosphere. My only complaint with regards to the black metal on Against This Weald is that these sections of black metal are just one or two minutes long. The transitions are never awkward or abrupt, but there’s always a longing for more.
Harmonious folk sections act as the counterpoint to the black metal found on Against This Weald. These sections have a distinctly European bent to them that expands upon the Viking styled black metal riffs. These parts are made up of gentle, organic drumming, acoustic guitars, clean, epic vocals, and more synth work. There are also occasional moments of piano and flute, but the majority of these sections are made of acoustic guitars and synths. Just like the black metal sections, these parts are masterfully done. Despite being instrumentally simple affairs, they maintain the atmosphere and are extremely soulful.
If there’s anything that I’d change about Against This Weald it would be the short runtime. 36 minutes is far too short a journey into the immersive world created by Ifing. I have no doubts as to the quality of Ifing’s songwriting, and I’d like to see an album of this caliber that reaches the sixty minute mark. But still, despite being an altogether too short album, Against This Weald is exceptional. Strong songwriting, great riffs, excellent atmosphere and fantastic production make this album a must-have for fans of Moonsorrow, Falkenbach, and the like. Tyler L.