It seems that United Kingdom has recently shaped up when it comes to epic and folky black metal, Wodensthrone being a great example of that with their 2009 album Loss, and now there’s Ildra and their major debut Eðelland offering an adventurous 50 minutes of noble pagan metal, not far from the previously mentioned band nor Graveland’s latter era.
Eðelland sounds full in all aspects: the production is rich, distorted guitars having enough strength and the acoustic ones a natural, woody sound - most audible on the various acoustic interludes all around the album. These short passages have, in fact, grown to be my favourite pieces of the album, perhaps because they lack the minor glitches of the metal on the record: namely, programmed drums. Luckily, it’s done pretty tastefully and undisturbingly, so do not expect to hear any lame, mechanized sounds on Eðelland. This is authentic music after all, not hindered even by a drum machine.
Compositionally, Eðelland is nicely varied, moods shifting from proud joy to mesmerizing melancholy. I can’t say I understand a word the singer screams (I suppose the lyrics are in old English as are the song titles) but it goes well hand in hand with the music. There are some moments that I would remove from the album, such as the sudden happy guitar soloing on ”Swa Cwæð se Eardstapa”, but for the most part, Eðelland is laden with consistently good material, hence deserving a favorable score.
As said, the overall impression of the album, including both music and the beautiful cover art, is largely positive: the infant label Sonnenrune Records haven’t started their career with any worthless material, that’s for sure (the previously reviewed Sferslav EP backing up this argument). Eðelland is an evocative piece of music that might not move mountains with originality yet still is a fresh breeze from medieval English landscapes. Definitely worth checking out if you are into the two names mentioned earlier or any similar bands.