Ichor is a name steeped in the history and lore of Australian black metal. Featuring Diablore and Wraith of cult Sydney act Nazxul, they released a four track demo tape in 1993 before focusing their energies instead on that act. Twenty-five years later, they have regrouped (with Nocturnes Mist drummer Zy) to create God of Thunder God of War.
This reviewer is keen to see how time may have impacted their approach.
Album opener ‘Spectres of the Woods’ is a definite statement of intent. This track feels like it could have been written/recorded in 1993. The atmosphere is both cold and timeless, relying on mid-tempo riffs and eerie, semi-spoken vocals to get its point across amid equal parts majesty and tyranny. With this as the opening track, Ichor have managed to stake their claim: they are not part of a revival of ‘classic’ black metal, they are not attempting to be modern, they are simply doing what comes naturally.
‘Noble Ichor’ starts off with focused, competent drumming and cold, dissonant riffing amid those gruff, almost-spoken vocals. The tempo is a bit higher than the album opener and the track is delivered that well for it. It conjures up images of fire and witchery, the listener can’t help but be engaged in Ichor’s craft. Midway through the track there is a nice guitar/vocal interlude that allows some breathing space before the relentless drums kick back in. I’m hearing some traces of Moonblood in this track, but I think that it might be more of a reflection towards the era which Ichor hearken from, rather than a specific influence.
‘Vucica’ is a slower, almost doom-laden track featuring some more ‘traditional’ black metal vocals to offset the semi-spoken vocals that Diablore employs to great use. There is also a greater reliance on atmosphere, more layers are apparent here, through the use of keyboards/synth. ‘Vucica’ soon breaks off into a desolate interlude, calling to mind wind and fire as distortion and distant vocals swirl around the listener. This is but a brief interruption, as a faster pace is soon adopted, before settling back into the funeral march that opened the track. The use of atmosphere brings ‘Vucica’ to a ghastly end.
‘Call of the Bloodthirst’ feels far more epic than it should be, given its relatively short run time. There is an air of majesty to this particular track, perhaps as if it were in the median of a thematic arc. It is this track that feels like a reflection of the elements that made up those which preceded it, for it is ‘Call of the Bloodthirst’ that at once seems to feature the most brutality, and the most melody; unveiling a mournful glimpse at both past and present.
‘Yaga’s Tomb’ slows the pace once again, but builds upon the epic atmospheres revealed in ‘Bloodthirst’, almost like a logical continuation from it before revealing its true self. Diablore’s vocals are used to great effect amid Wraith’s instrumental backdrop; spinning tales of days gone and times past; the cold atmosphere just chilling the listener to the bone, all the while grinding them down. ‘Yaga’s Tomb’ exemplifies just how well Ichor know their own sound. They are adept at casting the listener into the tales that they are telling, into the music that they are creating.
Album closer ‘Daughters of Wrath’ begins with the sound of fire and flames before launching into the track proper. And what a track it is, as if it has come direct from the early/mid 1990s. Featuring an absolutely immense atmosphere, this recalls the glory days of black metal. Each element works in dissonant harmony to create something akin to a call to battle. The riffs are razor sharp and the vocals focused with deadly precision. Just as the album starts with a statement of intent, so it closes with one.
God of Thunder God of War may very well have been an album twenty-five years in the making. I really appreciate the dedication and passion that Ichor brought to their craft. This is an album that would comfortably sit among the classics from yesteryear, yet rightfully demanding a place among stellar albums released to modernity. Fans of Nazxul would certainly enjoy this, as would black metal diehards. Listeners new to the genre would enjoy this if they are perhaps not yet ready to check out the cornerstones of the genre; for it contains everything that makes a black metal album great. I particularly enjoyed the use of cold endings, but if I had a criticism, it is that the last track (while intensely focused, and well-written) felt less like an album closer and more like a track elsewhere in the running order. It made me wish that there were more tracks. Perhaps that was an intentional move, hinting at what might be to come. Either way, God of Thunder God of War is too good to be a one off.
- Spectres of the Woods
- Noble Ichor
- Call of the Bloodthirst
- Yaga’s Tomb
- Daughters of Wrath