It’s rare that heavy metal bands provoke much thought with their album art, epic depictions of battle or ghastly gaggles of demons and devils being fun in their own way of course, but with their sophomore effort, Ir, Orm have presented an image that both connects to the album’s themes and astonishes in isolation. Though their name means “Serpent” in Danish, immediately drawing a line to classic black metal targets like Jörmungandr, the World Serpent from Norse mythology, the artwork to Ir is a borderline still-life of people ice skating across a frozen pond amidst a bleak and winter-ravaged forest. It’s a startlingly sombre, yet warming image, The cold of the season is seen inevitably creeping in from the edges of the portrait, but the sight of people not just enduring the cold but enjoying themselves despite it, is heartwarming. It’s a sign of hope within a landscape that can seem so very hopeless.
In many ways, Ir mirrors that dichotomy. A 50-minute record split between two 25-minute epics, Ir is neither as relentlessly cold as a band like Paysage d’Hiver, nor as lively as Ensiferum or Tyr. Large stretches of both tracks feature desolate acoustic passages and introspective melodies, only to be broken up by the fiery attack of classically conducted black metal riffs and spitfire kick drums. The vocals trend toward a gruffer growl, but the music very much sticks to traditional tremolo-picked riffs in between folksy interludes. There is a sort of predictability to it, a recurring soft-loud-soft pattern, but execution saves the day. Orm are convincing in how they bring the icy portrait to life and it’s a relief to find a black metal album that both conjures a wintry atmosphere and manages to inject some new life into it along the way.
Ir is available now through Indisciplinarian and can be purchased here.
Words: Brett Tharp