Isenmor 'Land of the Setting Sun' Review

In the immortal words of Monty Python,” …and now for something completely different”. Isenmor are a folk metal band fronted by a duo of violins, mixed with some extreme vocals and guitars.

Now, being Scottish, I have a little bit of folk running through my veins, well when you are brought up with wailing bagpipes, anything not so shrill goes down a whole lot better. “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” was a massive hit when I was at school and it is still on my iPod today, so maybe I was destined for this to drop on my desk to review.

So I have shut out all preconception and sat down and listened intently to “Land Of The Setting Sun” and to be completely honest it isn’t half bad. If you looked at the formula on paper it should not work, and although Isenmor are nothing like Hayseed Dixie, the latter have made a good living at mixing this type of instrument into rock and metal. They may be more light-hearted, but they still put on a hell of a performance live. Isenmor, like Hayseed Dixie, have some seriously talented musicians in their ranks. The violins are like a duelling battle in one of their songs, ‘Legendary Tales’.

The EP starts with “Death is a Fine Companion”, which starts like a thousand bands playing right this second in the Temple Bar district in Dublin, but that is left behind very quickly as we get some serious Doom Metal guitars. The chorus made me think this could easily have been sung around a Viking campfire after victory and loss of kinsmen. I can hear the cow horns clanking together and the chants to the Old Father in the distance.

“Pyre” is track two and is it me or is this Maiden on violins? The tempo changes are there, the chugging guitars, the visions of old movies and books being portrayed by one of the three vocalists in this band. This is where the violins come into their own. If you stripped everything else away this would be a sad lament, played beautifully.

The title track is next, and the nod to Ireland is back, good and strong. This is definitely a more traditionally folk music track musically, but with some guttural Death Metal vocals, it takes on a whole new aura, a dark and broody son of a bitch. This one for me nailed what they are trying to achieve, and tied the two genres together seamlessly.

“So Willingly Deceived” is the penultimate track, and as this plays, I realise I am really enjoying the whole experience, firstly that it works so well, and secondly that I am taking it seriously. This song starts with a brilliant piano composition, leading into those harmonising violins. Unfortunately, I feel the vocals let this song down slightly, and take what could have been an outright showstopper, and turn it into the weakest song, but that said, I do think there is a bit of tongue-in-cheek running through Isenmor, so this may have been done to please themselves more than any audience. It could definitely go down well live with a crowd chanting through the whole thing.

“The Old Mead Hall” brings back the full might of the violins, guitars and shanty vocals. I reckon some mead was downed while writing and playing this one, and I am pleased to say Isenmor was a pleasant surprise to me, and these songs may sneak onto my iPod any time I have had one too many, or am sparking up the fire pit in my garden this summer.

Review by Ritchie Birnie

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