Ifrinn, Caledonian Black Magick, Finland, The Sinister Flame, TSF017 MCD / MLP (2021)
From the Highlands region in Scotland comes mystery solo BM project Ifrinn (the name is Gaelic for “Hell”) with its second release “Caledonian Black Magick”, coming five years after its self-titled mini-album debut. In case this album’s title fails to make its point obvious, the three songs tell of secret rituals being performed that result in dramatic transformation and unearthly ecstasy. They appear to be much more onerous and impossible than just firing up a huge pot of stock on the outdoor barbecue and going through a long list of exotic ingredients that include eye of newt and toe of frog or wool of bat and tongue of dog; indeed, there is mention of the forging of seven forbidden seals and the seven celestial sacrifices that had to be made even before the album begins. And the album begins as though already in the middle of one of these rituals with a harsh downpour of noisy steaming tremolo guitar and shouty vocals. The title track barrels along in sheer noise blizzard fury, its power keenly focused on the goal of union with a black hellish universe, the guitars for the most part frenzied scrabbling drone beast. A brief break leading into a solo acoustic-like melody and spoken-word monologue adds some intriguing nuance to the track, as the rest of the song brings in new riff patterns which reinforce the grim determination of the protagonist vocalist yet hint at some trepidation and even despair.
“Silent Seas of Sorcery” introduce a more punk garage sound, a more deranged vocal style and epic triumphal background orchestral synthesiser melodies. The music seems much more defined and varied with clear riffs, changes in pace and mood, and a harrowing lead guitar solo. Final track “Stellar Zephyrs” charges up the already intense music with dramatic riff flourishes and it seems as if dread is as much mixed into the music here as anticipation of ultimate transformation. Everything here ascends to a much more malevolent and demented level with sickly riffs redolent of evil relish or crushing passages of guitar.
The most devastating parts of this recording though turn out to be the quieter ambient sections which consist of either deep empty cosmic space, forbidding and indifferent to human existence or purpose, or a deep sinister industrial-like drone that hints that the transformation sought was (and always will be) much more than the protagonist bargained for. That these parts of an unholy musical narrative have the most impact say much about how Ifrinn uses music, space and atmosphere to mould and create a work whose basic story-telling elements are so well-known to metal fans that they should be banal yet the result is fresh, intense and full of unexpected surprises. What initially seems to be raw noisy aggression reveals more sophisticated musical complexity and what seems to be a straightforward Satanic occult ritual ends up being ambiguous and much more murky and nihilistic.