Iskandr Takes Listeners To The “Gelderse poort” On New Release (Full EP Stream + Interview)
I know I've made this point before, but the best black metal evokes a place. The music of atmosphere should be picturesque in one way or another, and Iskandr's Gelderse poort quite literally intends to bring about mental images of the Gelderse poort proper. The beginning of the Rhine delta, the Gelderse poort is a cross-border (Germany and the Netherlands) preserve and natural floodplain, rife with natural flora and fauna. Pictures show it to be a vast, water-logged flatland, with pockets of dense forests, and, of course, the mighty Rhine itself running through the heart of it.
But what does this place have to do with Iskandr, one of the many acts associated with the Netherlands' Haeresis Noviomagi circle? "I have lived almost my entire life in the area marked by this geological terrain, where the Rhine cuts through the elevated eastern parts of the Netherlands," says project mastermind O. "Nowadays I live elsewhere, and the lyrics for the song were written and recorded during a few days of isolation in nature, when feelings of nostalgia and homesickness overtook me."
The vast wetness and geological flatness finds itself at home in Iskandr's black metal and folk fusion on the Gelderse poort EP -- the music itself is heavy, but it also presents these mental images of the terrain itself. It is dramatic and dynamic, often moving in large swaths, much like what it looks to represent. Closing with an equally massive folk-inspired song, O. continues his personal connection with this place by inviting his father to contribute a spoken word passage, a poem by Rhijnvis Feith.
The Gelderse poort finds a new, metaphysical home in this surprising EP, which isn't as "medieval" as its predecessor, the mighty Euprosopon, whose sessions brought about the first half of this release, but rather positions itself as a more personal, representational release, diving deep into multi-instrumentalist O.'s psyche and personal experience. Listen to Gelderse poort in full and read a brief interview with O. below.
As Iskandr is your solo project, how do you approach it when compared to the other, full-band Haeresis Noviomagi projects?
The approach is not too different from other projects. Even though I feel all Haeresis Noviomagi bands and projects have a pretty distinct feel and look to them, of course over time one learns a certain way of approaching the process, developing a mere idea towards a complete expression. The main themes represented, what I aim to evoke with Iskandr, are ideas about time, history, place, past and present. The distinct region of my upbringing, the oldest city in the Netherlands, made me want to confront this more directly with music, which made it stand out a bit from my other musical output at the time.
You've mentioned in other interviews that your writing process for Iskandr is different as it lacks the collaborative efforts which define your other bands. What is your solo process like?
Yes, it makes a huge difference to me. With other Haeresis Noviomagi bands the live aspect is very important: we write mostly during rehearsals and really develop the songs for a live feel. Even playing songs for years before recording them. In the studio, we also record playing all together. This is obviously impossible on your own, so the development of any idea has to be internal, not collaborative. That said, it is mostly about really taking the time to stew on ideas and a changing vision of the end result. I can be a bit too resolute in my decision making, so to leave open the chance for future augmentation of the original idea is definitively wise.
How do you feel Iskandr has progressed and evolved over the past four years?
I have a feeling that I’m getting closer to the original vision of what the project should evoke, but not completely there yet. Since Euprosopon, M. Koops (Fluisteraars, Solar Temple) has helped me by performing the drums for this project, which injects a little bit of his personal style into it, which I fully embrace and I think the project is better for it. With the first official Haeresis Noviomagi release being five years ago almost to the day, it seems like we all had a big development in our experiences, and new visions of what is possible with this music. Perhaps in a few years this youthful energy will die down, but for now, more is on the horizon.
The EP tracks were recorded during the Euprosopon sessions. What led to you separating them into a different release?
The title track was recorded during these sessions but at the time I already felt the song was a different entity altogether and didn’t really fit the vision I had for Euprosopon. The exact same feeling happened when deciding to separate my debut album Heilig Land and the follow up EP Zon, although I recorded all material at the same time. After a while, sitting on "Gelderse Poort," I decided to write an acoustic song to complement it, which was sometime around early 2018.
Your father is featured on this release, lending his voice to a spoken word passage in "Het Graf." What led to you utilizing the familial connection for this particular song?
My dad was actually the one who introduced me to Rhijnvis Feith, the poet that wrote the titular poem that he is reciting. By chance he hadn’t heard about this particular poem before I asked him to do it, so his interpretation is a spontaneous one. It deals with themes of existence, mortality, the cycle of birth, youth, old age and death. To connect my music to my own family line is an important step in building a stronger bond with the past. To have my own father speak those words lamenting but also celebrating the passing of time, just elevates the meaningfulness, to me, of doing music itself.
Conceptually, this EP deals with the symbolism of a specific place -- the actual "Gelderse Poort," which you've stated is a dividing line from what you consider to be your home. As the EP moves into more spacious and foreign territory, how do you feel Gelderse Poort tackles the idea of separation from home and the ultimate reunion with familiar terrain?
I have lived almost my entire life in the area marked by this geological terrain, where the Rhine cuts through the elevated eastern parts of the Netherlands. Nowadays I live elsewhere, and the lyrics for the song were written and recorded during a few days of isolation in nature, when feelings of nostalgia and homesickness overtook me. Pontificating on these questions perhaps does not result in the most elevated philosophical treatise, but it is a subject personal to me and my way of being in the world, which Iskandr is all about. I felt these honest lyrics matched the romantic nature of the music.
Thank you for your time and thanks to anyone who supported us throughout the years!
Gelderse Poort releases October 23rd on Eisenwald.