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Isenordal - Spectral Embrace (2018) - Review

Band: Isenordal
Album title: Spectral Embrace
Release date: 1 June 2018
Label: Eternal Warfare Records

01. The Sorrow Of A Shadowed World
02. Inevitable Product Of The Foretold
03. Despondent Longing And Phantasmal Communion
04. An Entrancing Dream
05. Dissolution Into The Earth
06. To Turn Thy Thoughts From The Tree Of Life

Coming from the city that gave us alternative rock movement called grunge, Seattle, Isenordal are back with their second full-length offering named Spectral Embrace, and if their debut album, Shores Of Mourning, released last year really caught my attention and enthused me in a big way with a very special blend of emotive cascadian black metal, doom, neofolk and yet much more (you can read my review over HERE), the new album offers a completely different picture, on Spectral Embrace there's no trace of metal, the band also unpluged all the instruments from electricity and what we get is an acoustic album which musical direction is kind of neofolk mixed with neoclassical, baroque, pagan and partially celtic music. They presented us two tracks already on the EP Lughnasadh MMXVII, released in September last year, so more or less we knew what was to expect.

So far so good, I like the idea of the band to move in a completely different direction, but if the band managed to make a highly captivating compositions on their debut album, the things are not done in such a spectacular way here. Spectral Embrace consists of six tracks that clocks between five and eight minutes, bringing melancholic themes in a bit warmer manner. Still very dark and gloomy in its core, yet beautifully made, but I miss the pathos and band fails to captivate with extraordinary compositions like they used to. Don't get me wrong, Isenordal here did some beautiful things, especially with use of acoustic guitars, virtuoso viola and cello, thus making some unprecedented harmonic complexity, but almost every time when the band is near to reach some kind of a sonic climax they cut it off with badly inserted ambiguous parts.

We get the best in the first two tracks, "The Sorrow Of A Shadowed World" and "Inevitable Product Of The Foretold", the catchiest and hauntingly beautiful tracks, but even on this two the band managed to ruin the magic, like for example in the first track when everything seems to lead into a dark harmonic greatness with use of different strings and mournful cello, they simply break it with some thumping tribalistic percussion and bland half shouted male vocals, while enchanting female vocals are constantly just great, ethereal, dark and haunting. I can't say much against the second track "Inevitable Product Of The Foretold", a special gloomy mournful atmosphere with splendid cello passages and some highly dramatic nuances, where some subtle blackened screams come from the background. Emotionally dense, melancholic and refined sound textures are just like in most of the tracks, thankfully this time in the very end, when we are only waiting for the ultimate climax, simply cut off and the band goes on with some mellow lines.

The rest of the tracks are compositionally more complex but at the same time also more monotone, there are still some good moments, like is for example the last part of "Despondent Longing And Phantasmal Communion", where some blackened shouts come again into the picture to create a very dense and somehow evil ambiance, or the sweet melancholic ethereal passages in the beginning of "An Entrancing Dream", the instrumental part with gloomy playful cello in the ending of "Dissolution Into The Earth", I also enjoyed in the medieval atmosphere of the closing track, but unfortunately nothing is too astonishing that could captivate the listener, even though that the band tries to keep kind of a dramatic factor on a high level.

Isenordal's tendency is to transport the listener to a dark and magical place, yes, they almost do it, but imagine being in front of the very door to musical heaven and just before you enter you wake up from sleep into harsh reality, that's what Isenordal do over and over again. Fans of acts such as Arcana, later era Die Verbannten Kinder Evas, later era Elend, Dark Reality, Wardruna, Hekate and similar acts should of course give it a try. Everything is here, the talent, extremely good played instruments, magical voices, immersive lyrics, great production, the only thing that actually fails are the compositions which should be more flowing. I hope that Isenordal will in the future return to this kind of sound, but with more elaborated songs that will smoothly build up in atmosphere and tension, I know they can do it.

Review written by: T.V.
Rating: 6,5/10