Reviewed: Iskra – Ruins
Iskra will leave you in ruins. There is no subtler way to put it. Turn and run, for if you remain facing this oncoming incursion, you will be trampled into the very ground you stand on. Records show that Iskra are a 5-piece hailing from British Columbia, Canada but one listen to their new album Ruins will have you accepting the just as likely proposal that they are in fact a legion of demonic force, originating from a latter-day medieval campaign laced in bloodshed.
Furious from the outset, this collection of 10 ripping tracks shows a band at the top of their game. Throughout the album there is never a dull moment; as soon as you stab play, you are greeted with what will persist for the next 40 minutes, a scornful yet immediately accessible mix of thrashy blackened crust. Comparisons to well-known bands (e.g. Skeletonwitch) are bound to occur, but honestly, there is more to this release than in-your-face blackened thrash. Iskra show a balance which can often be severely lacking in this style. Sure, similar releases have the instant straight-out-of-the-box headbangability too, but upon deeper immersion with repeated listens, they regularly lose engagement through lack of balance and/or depth. With Ruins, this is surely not to be the case, with each instrumental element working in an enthralling manner with its cohort, offering up a plethora of ideas which give each play-through a slightly more detailed picture.
From the relentless drumming, which offers only slight respites in the shape of the momentary silences between staccato stabs, to the pounding and dirty sounding bass thuds which accompany the rolling bass drums, this attack makes the ground pre-emptively quiver in subordination. Danielle’s vocals are consistently hoarse and have a genuine cut-throat delivery.
The guitars are what really stand out to me here though. Through use of quick-shifting octaves, incensed trilling, frenetic single-note shredding and those inverted chords that are no doubt as integral to the genre as the inverted crosses they’re placed in front of, these guitars straight-up rip! The open-string riffing isn’t confined to the lower register either with some upward shifts to balance out the hasty lateral traversals. While the leads are often restricted to flowing in a complimentary manner with the overall melodic stream, every so often they reach out and melt some face. There are even leads that are seemingly comprised of a single long note which is left to ring out grimly athwart several bars like a wind blowing across a cadaver-strewn moor following a bloody battle.
The production is clean enough to hear all the elements and notes clearly while not sounding too polished for the genre. The balance between the instrumental sections and vocal coverings skews slightly toward the latter, but it manages to not detract from the excellent musicianship on display here. Head over to Iskra’s bandcamp page and pick yourself up a copy ($1 CAD) of this before you are pummelled by the soiled hooves of the approaching cataclysm.