Genre: Black Metal | Label: Black Raven Records
Location: Victoria, BC| Listen: Bandcamp
Another veteran group of the west Canada metal/punk scene, Iskra are band from Victoria, BC that are rooted in crust punk that plays very Scandinavian influenced black metal. The “European Tour Demo” release came out between the six year gap that separated their second and third albums, and contains songs that appeared on both. It marks the first material recorded entirely by drummer Cody Baresich, and was done so at the band’s rehearsal space. The results are great, and it was a great layover release between albums when it dropped in 2012.
The A side of this recording contains 4 tracks that would later appear on the band’s third album, “Ruins.” These songs continue in the direction set forth by the previous “Bureval” record, and eschew most of the thrashy crust punk influence that was present on the self titled debut. Here we are met with riffs that wouldn’t sound out of place on a record by Dissection or Marduk. There’s lots of tremolo picking around frosty black metal chord progressions, and they really flex their musicianship while doing so. Tracks like “Illegal” spiral around with the bass shining through nicely and further adding to the swirling feeling with some great lines in the outro of this song, as well as some pretty cool dive-bomb littered leads. There’s a pretty great sense of melody here as seen with the closing track “Traume” that balances out blistering speed of these songs. When this demo came out, it certainly added a lot of hype for the “Ruins” album, even though it would take another three years to come out.
Going back to the “Bureval” record, the B side of this demo contains three re-recordings of songs originally from that album. These tracks are kind of redundant in the sense that this is the third version of them, as “Bureval” also has its own demo version that was pressed to vinyl the year after this demo came out. However, these tracks do contain two different members (bassist JP and second guitarist Anatol), and the recording here is arguably better than the original album. “Kronstadt” stands out in particular with its sheer speed and catchy black metal riffs, but I could say the same of “Dubrovlag,” as it is also a choice song. The B side ends with a cover of Immortal’s “Cursed Realms of the Winter Demons,” and really fits in with the Scandinavian style of black metal that Iskra draws their sound from.
Despite being a demo, this is a really great sounding record. I gave praise to Baresich’s recording in a review for fellow Victoria band Six Brew Bantha, and although this is an earlier recording than that, it’s rather solid. Like I said, it’s arguably better than the “Bureval” recording, with the bass having a nice low end presence, and all the notes of the fast tremolo picking shine through from the guitars. The drums have a bit of a boxy sound to them at times, which is something that has much been improved in later recordings. This serves as an excellent bridge to the “Ruins” LP, which shows even further detail and improvement as far as production values go.
Even after 8 years, I quite enjoy this demo recording, and at 30 minutes, it’s more like a full length, especially with its quality recording. The Immortal cover being exclusive to it gives it that little extra something. There were an additional two tracks recorded with this demo – another new song and cover of Doom’s “Nazi Die” – which were later released on a split 7″. I often find myself listening to those tracks alongside this demo as they have the same production. This demo may not be essential for those who already have “Bureval” and “Ruins,” but it’s always stuck with me, especially because I gave it so many listens waiting for that third full length.