The map of Iceland is blotted with little groups of black metal artists, but the biggest is right over Reykjavik. The vast empty land does here and there spark some fires, but the capital is where it happens and Vonlaus is no exception. Their debut has come out this year and that’s all I can tell you about this group.
As the demo is out on Vánagandr. It’s likely that this project is connected to that lot and Mystískaos limits it even further to a very limited group. Though this speculation may be fun, nothing comes from it. Yet, I will just mention Wormlust and Skaphé as label mates and leave it at that. Vonlaus did contribute a track to the compilation ofMYRKFÆLNI magazine before and that’s all I can tell you at this point.
Opener ‘Vistaránauð’is a grimy, dirty doom track, with a slow progression that just glues you to the floor. The howling, raspy vocals are almost mocking, challenging the listeners in an uncanny way, while a clean guitar melody breaks through the murky haze. Slow and heavy, this hits quite hard and effectively. The shimmering guitars and thudding rhythm, the chuggy bass line, all works wonderfully.
On ‘Mein’ the band truly arrives though. A rocking vibe unleashes itself from the start. The repetitive melody feels as if it works your nerves like tiny little hammers for the 5-minute duration of the track with that nagging sound. It similarly holds that low pace, with a punky beat to it, a remarkable simplicity that just works for Vonlaus. The exit is the tune ‘Í blindbyl ótta og haturs’, which has that same raw and melancholic vibe, sticking to the base principles of the band. A welcome entry into the black metal realms, but hard to say if this is going to be one that sticks around.
Auðn is that one band from Iceland with members that are not a part of every other band. Yeah, the island of ice and snow has a unique, small black metal scene, with passionate musicians. These gents have been active since 2010 and now are finally returning with their second album. ‘Farvegir Fyrndar is an absolute gem in the modern black metal landscape and from its artwork to sound oozes a unique flavor.
Not just within the black metal realm is Auðn a noteworthy name, even within the Icelandic scene they stand apart. Their first self-titled album came out back in 2014 and in my humble opinion, it simply stands apart from the scene at large thanks to its refinement in the sound of the Hveragerði band.
There’s something vibrant and lush in the music of Auðn. Their atmospheric music often simply relies on generating just that, the feeling of an environment full of life and with a flourishing energy to boot. At times the band can sound utterly melancholic, like on ‘Skuggar’, but the best version of the Icelanders to me is when they create such a throbbing, invigorating burst of energy and warmth. This is what you get on ‘Lífvana Jörð’. The piercing vocals of Hjalti Sveinsson have a fire in them that really hits the mark.
‘Prísund’ is another stand-out track, because it utilizes the wall of guitar, that creates the sensation of rain. Coming down like showers, on one of those miserable days when everything feels grey. At times Auðn moves in an even more and more postrock-defined direction, pushing together the elements to create an almost tapestry of sound. Then a slight tremolo shimmer emerges in the pattern and shakes it all apart again.
It’s a remarkable record, that shows how the right soil produces greatness.
Stephen Lockhart is a man of dedication and after leaving his native Ireland, he has hooked up with the Icelandic scene ever since. The man played in Sinmara but has also returned to his own project RebirthofNefast after almost 10 years. The album ‘Tabernaculum’ is an extraordinary work of art and one that has been in the making for years due to the desire of Lockhart to make something monumental.
Rebirth of Nefast has not released a full length before ‘Tabernaculum’, but a demo and a split. Lockhart has in the meantime also played in Myrkr, the epic Wormlust and Haud Mundus. There’s a reverie with which to approach a record, that took so much honing of the craftwork to make. I feel awed by it’s magnitude and force, but what a great listen it is!
Great, but not easy, because ‘The lifting of the Veil’ opens with an 11-minute bombardment, introduced with eerie tones, which surges over you like a tidal wave. As the abyss itself slowly unfolds, the warped, guttural words creep out. Whispers and soft picked notes create an even more dense atmosphere as if fumes rise up and envelop the listener. And then… you go off into the deep end with Rebirth of Nefast.
The trick is not to rely on sheer ferocity, but the suggestion of that. When this band has swallowed you whole, everything starts to sound huge and foreboding. Sure, when ‘The First Born of the Dead’ kicks of, the blast beats are heavy and hitting where it hurts, but they’re balanced, controlled and carry the atmosphere with them. The sound simply flows, like a dark horde in the night. Full of strength, but never needing to fully put it on display, the record is one of the best things I’ve heard in a while.
Closer ‘Dead the Age of Hollow Vessels’ feels ashen grey, full of vitriol and with a mild hint of melancholy. It’s all there on this album, ready to be absorbed into your bloodstream and cool your heart.
After delivering a split with Misþyrming earlier this year, Sinmara drops another bomb with ‘Within The Weaves of Infinity’. A new obliterating bit of Icelandic black metal to come hit you in the ear-drums.
Sinmara actually has been around almost ten years, though at first under the moniker Chao. Their black metal is pretty much in line with the Icelandic sound of fury, fire, and ice and this new EP is definitely some of the finest.
The opening title track immediately unfolds a grim wave of interwoven guitar passages. There’s a soothing, wavering feel to the sound, while it also holds that furious abyssal rage in its thunderous riffing. The vocals are like hot coals clashing, while the words are spat out at you. The sound seems as full of conflict as its origin is fire and ice as much as calm and rage.
Sinmara clearly connects to the whole post-black metal scene in their sound, but retains that rumbling fire. This is very clear when the blasts and static guitar riffs of ‘Ormstunga’ hit you in the face like a frosty blast of wind. An eerie melody comes together in the composition, but the howls and barks offer a rough counterweight. The focus seems to be on the overall atmosphere, but that doesn’t stop the gents from relentlessly beating you with drums, guitars and words.
Sinmara is a challenging listen, but this is Icelandic black metal at its best. Both traditionally furious as well as melancholically melodic. A pleasure indeed.
A whole mouthful, the title of this album ‘Úr Draumheimi Viðurstyggðar’, but a worthy new showdown in the continuous flow of Icelandic black metal. It has everything indeed to sound dark and grim in a similar way to every band from over there (without sounding the same). Endalok has found their own flavor of black metal though, heavy on atmosphere.
The members of this band are not known as far as I could find out about it, but they did drop a demo earlier, which was well received. The artwork features tentacles reaching out from utter darkness. It catches the vibe of this dark as hell record methinks. It also predicts something of what the approach is from this group.
Endalok seems to be a band that loves their slow progressions and foreboding tones. Whether it’s the introductionairy riffing, or a slow intermezzo, the haunting threat in their sound is omnipresent and very characteristic of this band. The blistering speed is lacking, but a continuous feeling of ominous looming is even conveyed through the blasted drums on ‘Afskræming holds og sálar’. You could compare the sound of Endalok to a thickish, barrel aged stout beer. It’s very full of flavor, a bit sticky and completely overwhelming.
In some respects the band reminds me of Dragged Into Sunlight. Not for the ferocity, but the haunted feeling of something lurking nearby. The mix is highly distorted, creating bigger, cohesive sounds in which the elements sometimes merge together. Endalok is more one dimensional, but does have the chaotic sound of nightmares ready and waiting for their listeners. Like the cover predicts, it is that thing reaching out from the darkness. The lurking danger from beyond. The wavery riffs, the rolling drums and the guttural barks that form within the foggy sound are a harrowing experience. The haunting, peculiar sound is something special on this first real release by this band. Can’t wait to hear more like ‘Holdgerving Andskotans’. Fear of the dark.
Iceland’s young black metal scene keeps producing diamonts. I think that Draugsól is just the next one in line with their excellent debut ‘Volaða Land’. It translates as something like ‘land of misery’, which is a fitting titled for a black metal band that seems to have a sound inspired by the Nidrosian style in black metal. But hey, that’s probably painting them with too broad strokes.
This group is ofcourse not a collective of unknown figures, but are also active in Mannveira, In Crucem Agere and Cult of Lilith. So all in all, close to the tight knit Icelandic scene with a bit of death metal thrown into it. Like most band in that scene, there’s a definite identity to their sound. A rawness and untamed element that immediately stands out when you listen to them.
The sound of the title track immediately sets up something epic, working as an intro with powerful voices and muscular drum rolls. Howls and dissonant guitars fill the air and let their squeel merge into ‘Formæling’. The deep, guttural vocals and the cascading riffs are immediately affirming the chest pumping epic direction the sound is going in. The cascading riffs are remniscent of other northern battle metal bands, maybe even a bit of Keep Of Kalessin with the straight forward, clean riffing. The overall clean production really helps the band carry their sound to an epic status, instead of becoming a more bestial sounding band.
No, there’s an honest grandeur to the sound of this band. Mainly thanks to the arches of the guitar, that is often let free to soar and roam the land. Implementing some nature sounds also works in favor of their overall experience, like the falling water on ‘Bót Eður Viðsjá Við illu Aðkasti’. As a listener you can detect some Enslaved in the sound here. The stretched out parts with intentse tremolo riffing, the shifts and build-up in the song, even the gurgly vocals feel like they connect there. It feels as if Draugsól has a tendency to be slightly more progressive. At other moments they really stick to the traditional aspects, but there’s definitely a different groove to this band.
I have to add some Behemoth to that, because the band certainly knows how to bring it big. Somewhere in between all that they deliver a fierce debut and I hope these guys will be around for a bit.
Label: self released Band: Afsprengi Satans Origin: Iceland
Itś a bit muddy where this group just emerged from, with their peculiar cover and lack of info. There has been a band in Iceland with the name AfsprengiSatans, which is related to the groups Myrk and Momentum. Oh, and they’re from Reykjavik, but that is quite frankly all I can tell you about them.
The record is rather short, only five songs, of which four don’t reach the three minute mark, but number five lasts 14 minutes. The songs have the titles of the four compass points, where the final track is titled Experiment.
THe music you get is the sound of wind, blowing hauntingly, laced with soem further effects to create a blaring form of ambient music. In that torrent of sound on ‘Norður’, a rapid rhythm is discernible, but it is unclear what casues it. It may be something fluttering in the gale of wind, or tribal drumming. The tempo of that decreases a lot on the next track, which seems to have some horns sounding through the unrelenting winds, howling and lamenting.
With only slight variations, the record just continuous its path. Whistling, blowing and biting, the wind goes on. Now and then it sounds as sif there’s cut up sounds, messed into the music. Hacked up, mutated and strange to even create more of a fearful environment. The final track is another long ambient piece, which randomly seems to change direction. A rather intriguing piece of music if I may say.
So yeah, this is a weird release, but also fun and interesting. Give it a spin, you might enjoy its haunting atmosphere.
All corners of the world in this sounds of the underground with Skáphe from the USA/Iceland, Wildernessking from South Africa, Burial Dust from Bangladesh and Cadaver Eyes from Israel.
Skáphe – Skáphe² Fallen Empire Records
I came across these guys, while doing a SoU about bands from Iceland. They were cool, but not Icelandic, so you get them now. Skáphe is a band from Philadelphia in the United States (partly Iceland too) and this album came out after Trump started rampaging across any sort of decency that you’d find. I guess it is what fuels their anger. The band sounds pretty much like they’re actually part of that Icelandic scene and are indeed part of the Vánagandr group, which in its own peculiar way is embrasing the nidrosian idea of pure, back to basics black metal. I feel that this is in large parts what you get when listening to their relentless record.
Think of early bands like Blasphemy and you get a similar, overwhelming and raw delivery. The sound in general is a roaring and thunderous one, with little subtlety. There is a slight bit of that tremolo guitar sound, you’ll find in the post black-metal bands now usually, but it’s used sparingly. Cacophonous sounds peep through the solid wall of sound now and then, offering you a glimpse into the swirling malestrom of madness behind it all. The whole recording seems to have done in a concrete storage hall or something, because there is no sense of subtlety or grace to the sound of these Americans. Only after the full album I checked its members: D.G. is known from his work with Misþyrming and Naðra (see this SoU#33) and Alex Poole, who did his thing in Krieg, Esoterica and Chaos Moon. Things make more sense to me now.
Wildernessking – Mystical Future Sick Man Getting Sick Records
I had to check it twice myself, black metal from South-Africa? That seemed wild. Not because I don’t think it shouldn’t be played in Africa, but the relationship seems like one that is bound to face with troubles. Wildernessking has been around for a good while though. In 2012 they released their debut, but in 2010 the band formed under the moniker of Heathens. The range of topics is broad and obviously inspired by the countries own nature and sensibilities. The Cape Towners fill their music with progressive elements to create something unique.
Think Winterfylleth, but set in the wide stretches of land of South-Africa and with probably better weather. You can hear that sensation of sunrays in the warm and beaming feel of the riffs. Though intensely played and full of hard work, the sound feels languid, relaxed but also danger lurks. The bestial roar of Keenan Nathan Oakes rips through that languid mood with an urgency, while the riffs smoothly cascade onwards in a dramatic though doomy way. There’s a longing or lamenting in the music and voice that grip you. It’s that amazing sincerity that makes this feel so good.
Burial Dust – OshubhoAhobaan Independent
Bangladesh is starting to develop it’s very own black metal scene, with primitive, furious and quite convincing. The main theme appaers to be the ancient death cult and occult religions, but more than anything the denunciation of the false gods that rule our society. Reminds you of Norway some decades ago? Bands like this show that black metal has matured and found a deep rooting within counter culture and anti-religious thoughts with serious followers. Wether that’s a good thing, is not up to me to decide, but it lends a certain gravity to the expression in the music itself. The title translates as ‘Ominous call’.
Though the sound may come off as pretty lo-fi (necrosound!), it works in the favor of the band in the sense of aura and vibe. Blistering, crackling blasts and deep, unearthly gutteral vocals show the mixed ancestry in both the death and black scene, giving a similar feel to the band as the primitive origins of Mayhem and Darkthrone (maybe even a little of the more death orientated sounds of Von and Morbid). The attentive listener can detect some oriental influences in their sound, where the evocation of ancient Egyptian deities is no strange occurence. From the guitar crescendo’s to the unbidding chasm of the vocals, this is a powerful bit of dark magic.
Cadaver Eyes – Class Mammal HCB Records
Sometimes you get these requests that sound just too intriguing to be ignored. This Israeli band claims to implement elements of doom, noise and experimental sounds into their product and that alone is quite peculiar. The sound that you experience when listening to it is even more weird and unsettling then you’d think. To give a bit of context, the band is a project more than anything, based in Jaffa, Jerusalem and New York. Bandmember Zax indicated in his e-mail that he also plays in Lietterschpich and in Hyperion Ensemble, along with drone deity Stepehen O’Malley’. It should give you some context on what these guys are doing.
The line between fucked up noise and brilliance is a rather thin one, leaving a band to be often misunderstood. As one, I presume Chinese, site described Cadaver Eyes: “in these music there is nothing but amounts of buzzing”. Brilliant quote, but there’s much more to it. The base of the music is a drone that truly unsettles the listener, specially when David Opp (also Lietterschpich, Balata etc.) starts barking at the listener through a fog of distortion and rage. The drum patterns make little sense, giving you hardly any space to breathe and find a calm in the music. Though it lacks a certain sonic intensity, the experimental, fuzzy crackling of electronics gives no quarter. The record also has two cover-like tracks, one being ‘Acetone’ by Mudhoney. You can’t go wrong with Mudhoney, but for some listeners Cadaver Eyes might feel like you’ve really been walking down the wrong kind of alley.
And we’re up to number 26 of Sounds of the Underground with Regarde Les Hommes Tomber, Draugurinn, Misþyrming and Gurthang. Check them out!
Regarde Les Hommes Tomber – EXILE Les Acteurs de l’ombre Productions
You only need to start listening to opener ‘L’Exil’ to get captivated by the soaring tremolo guitars and thundering rhythms, that crash like waves unto your eardrums. The Frenchies are back with a fenomenal record, casting a shadow over their self-titled debut, which I discussed in my very first review block. From the sludge/post-hardcore front the band was residing in before, there’s a definite movement here towards the black metal sound. Well, post-blackmetal is what we need to say I suppose.
The clanging cymbals in dischord with the blastbeat and crackling feedback offers a wealthy wall of sound. Connect that to the imposing vocals and sound and the record becomes an intense and bombastic experience. ‘Embrace the Flames’ is for example a full on black assault, with a harrowing guitar riff spiralling through it. There’s so much power to the music of this Nantes band, it’s a shame everyone keeps talking about the new deafheaven.
Misþyrming – Söngvar elds og óreiðu Fallen Empire Records & Terratur Possessions
Icelandic black metal, that surely has something special about it they must feel at the Roadburn office. So these guys are an integral part of the next edition of the festival. This album came out earlier in 2015 and only now I’ve discovered the intense, excruciating sound of a band whose name means something like maltreatment. Neck breaking ferocious guitar riffs are unrelenting in their sonic assault from the first moments of the album onwards.
It’s a tortured affair of eerie feedback, blustering music and howled vocals. There are no breaks on the wheels of Misþyrming when the y star turning. There’s a certain unique sound to the band that is intriguing. An industrial, desolate atmosphere maybe, but also a Darkthrone like punk vibe that brings a rawness to the band. The sound is explosive, erupting from the deeps and therefor truly overwhelming at times. This is always accompanied by a clear link to the oldschool sound.
Draugurinn – Ísavetur Nordvis
‘The Ghost’ in Icelandic, this project is the solo effort of Swedish artist Dísa, previously active in black metal bands Murmurs and Korpblod and currently also working on Turdus Merula. This lady has been making some really amazing stuff and Draugurinn takes it a bit more into the mystical region of aetherial ambient with a shamanistic feeling to it. The story is that of a world covered and obscured by volcanic ash and a drumming that melds together with your heartbeat, captivating the listener completely.
There is something intensely pagan and foreign to the music, it draws you into a natural and soothing environment of ritual and dreams. Soundscapes or eerie howls clash with the rhythmic drums that bring a trance with them. The cover appears like a drawing of Theodor Kittelsen, as popularized by early black metal acts like Burzum, but somehow fits better here. For me, this album awakens a thirst for that spiritual connection to nature, for the harmony I find in the work of Dísa, whose other bands I’ll definitely keep my eye on. PS, for Skyrim fans, now you now where the word Draugr comes from.
Gurthang – I will notserve Immortal Frost Productions
The Polish band has derived their name from Tolkien novels, where the sword Gurthang is wielded by hero Túrin Túrumbar. It’s name means ‘Steel of death’. The band has been around forever and their sound fits in with the Polish style of blackened death you can hear with Behemoth. Cold, stiff tones, majestic sounding and sharp thudding rhythms. The band has been around for a couple of years, but has a prolific catalogue of music already. This may be their best addition as yet.
There’s a cold fury to the sound of Gurthang, a controlled distribution of rage with a sound that in general leans more towards the melodic death metal, but with a much grimmer atmosphere. The Frosty guitar riffs soar over the rumbling drums, which demonstrates how the studio can really affect the sound of an album in this corner of the extreme metal genre. There is a certain lack of dynamics to the record, but it’s in a way like a piece of old fashioned armor: it is sturdy, frightning and cold. Good record, that is exciting enough to give a spin.
A new selection of books I’ve read, with work from Haldor Laxness, Kevin Smith, Thich Nhat Hanh and Chris Hardwick.
Haldor Laxness – Iceland’s Bell
“Have you ever seen Iceland rise from the sea?” Asks the protagonist of the Icelandic people Arnas Arnaeus at some point in this book. That sentence stuck with me in this novel by Nobel price winner Haldor Laxness about the impoverished people in Iceland during the Danish reign. The book consists out of three parts, of which the second and third are the more serious ones. The first part mainly features Jón Hreggvidson, a farmer who happens to be at the wrong places all the time and instead of getting his head lobt of ends up travelling all the way to Danmark to plea for his case.
The other character is a noble lady from Iceland who is instrumental in the continued existance of Jón Hreggvidson and embodies a different Iceland. She and Arnaeus have a bond, a romance that is like the fleeting romance Iceland has with its liberty. It never truly comes to pass in the book but always seems near. There’s a lot of black and bleak humor in the book, specially on the account of the Icelandic population, personified in crook and fool Hreggvidson, who the reader cannot but love, regardless of all his foolish behaviours and constant reciting of the same ballad. It’s a book that instills a love and sympathy for that strange island. Well worth reading, specially thanks to its complex symbolism and folk like telling style.
Chris Hardwick – The Nerdist Way
I started on ‘The Nerdist Way’, because I felt particularly in need of something to help me elevate my spirits. Originally I expected to find a fun book about the life of Chris Hardwick, but it turned out to be a very well intended self-help book for people with the same sort of obsessive syndroms and social awkwardness as him. Something I can relate to, but also filled with that particular humor, filled with self-deflating jokes. I was impressed by the upbeat nature and strenght of the book, which is an honest attempt to make a difference and really help people.
At various points Hardwick admits he is not a professional and suggests seeking professional help if you as a reader deal with specific problems. He talks about an attitude in life, a generally healthy lifestyle and even gives advice when it comes to excersising. The book outlines an alternative for those of us that have caught the nerd syndrome of sticking to the indoors. This book can really give you some motivation to make some changes and thus be living your life to the fullest. Chris Hardwick is an inspirational figure, not just in what he does, but also where he comes from. His punchline for this book seems to be: “I’ve been at my worst and now at my best, so I just want to try and share this so aothers can learn from it.” It really works because of that sheer honesty. Thich Nhat Hanh – Living Buddha, Living Christ
In this book the Vietnamese monk is attempting to define the underlying similarities between most big religious movements in the world. It’s a praise worthy attempt, because Thich Nhat Hanh seems to be spot on with a lot of things. He succesfully peels of the layers of dogmatism and classic indoctrination to reach the essential meaning of religious movements. He lists similarities between the Buddha and Christ, leaving out a lof of the fundamentelist motives inherent to various religions In that way, he sincerely opens up the dialogue with an open mind.
The author also describes the dismayed responses he has gotten over time, but points out that as religions learn from eachother, they can also remain relevant. This touches upon an issue that pretty much every major religion seems to face in recent times: loss of touch with the followers. Speaking from my own knowledge, I see that less and less people are visiting church. Some people rejoice over this, but I see it as a spiritual bankrupcy and I’m fairly sure that we’ll start seeing that some time in the future. I feel happy that books like this excist, offering a third way of finding a spirituality through the things that you find appealing in various religions, atleast I think Thich Nhat Hanh grants us that liberty, as long as we do it sincerely and respectfully.
Kevin Smith – Tough Shit: Life Advice from a Fat, Lazy Slob Who Did Good
So I continued with this biographical book by Kevin Smith. Smith is one of my favorite directors, whose films I think I’ve all watched. Red State is the last in line and Im planning to watch this very soon. In this book Smith talks about his life and whatever stuff happened to him in the same way his characters talk in the early films. So yeah, there’s a lot of metaphors involving dick jokes and such, but one needs to get over that to find the gold underneath, which is various life lessons and hilarious anecdotes about a lot of weird stuff and the film industry.
There’s also going to be a lot of Clerks being mentioned. I feel a bit of embarrasment now and then about the direct words used by Smith, but that just says more about me. I recommend this book for the simple reason that it is hilarious and cathartic. Im pretty sure that Kevin Smith has faced enough tribulations in his own way. Sure, there’ s that whole different level where it takes place, in Hollywood and all. Still, this is transferrable to real life and sure as hell we all need some advice from a fat man who did good.
Oh, there’s also bits about Jay & Silent Bob, Dogma, Clerks, Chasing Amy, Jersey Girl, Ben Affleck and Bruce Willis.