The debut album from Michigan’s Ifing is a regrettably short but extremely effective slab of atmospheric, folk-influenced black metal. While the subject matter and basic formula is clearly influenced by Europe’s pagan metal scene (Against This Weald draws heavily from Norse mythology and pagan black metal both in musical and lyrical content) Ifing has a surprisingly mellow take on the genre. Clean vocal sections appear frequently during the album’s two primary tracks ‘The Stream’ and ‘Realms Forged’, reminding of the softer side of bands like Falkenbach. With the softer passages and frequent clean vocal sections, Against This Weald can be almost relaxing at times, but it still contains enough power and aggression to pack a decent punch when it wants to.
There’s a certain familiarity and comforting simplicity to Ifing’s music. It’s the opposite of an album like Spectral Lore‘s last opus III – there’s not a whole lot to process and not a huge amount of depth. The melodies are pretty instantly accessible and for the most part go where you’d expect them to, and there isn’t any musical element here we haven’t really heard before. Ifing’s strength lies in seamlessly and masterfully integrating all the typical pieces of a folk-influenced black metal sound, crafting memorable melodies while switching frequently between acoustic and folk instruments and heavier guitar/keyboard passages. This is the type of album that you go for when you’re not expecting to be surprised or blown away by musical innovation or weirdness, but you just want another infusion of quality music in a genre you know and enjoy.
The progression of this band should be interesting, especially now that their debut has gotten such a great response. One would assume that Ifing’s future releases will contain more than two long songs and an intro, and the songwriting complexity and creativity should only increase as the band gains confidence and experience. Finding groups like this is what keeps being a metal fan exciting after all these years, especially when it’s a band from the US. I’m very curious to see what Ifing will be capable of in the future.