Iceland doesn’t have a whole lot going for it these days. Though the economy is recovering, unemployment is still four times higher than it was before the collapse. The country itself is constantly on the verge of exploding. Oh, and that hot coworker you finally hit it off with? There’s a good chance she’ll be showing up at the next family reunion. So now you’re jobless, dating your cousin, and living in continuous anticipation of a fiery cataclysmic death. It’s enough to make you want to walk down to the beach and punch a seal in its stupid happy face.
There’s a lot to be mad about, and while that sucks for most people living in Iceland, it’s led to some great black metal acts. Bands like Misþyrming, Svartidauði, and Sinmara have used that anger to fuel their powerful music to enormous effect. It seems like Iceland is trying to stake a claim for the throne of black metal, and I’ll be damned if they’re wrong. With that in mind, I was pretty excited for the release of Allir vegir til glötunar, the debut of a band featuring members of Carpe Noctem, Dysthymia, and Abacination.
Naðra waste no time in grabbing your attention. “Fjallið” opens up with a pained howl amidst a rushing current of blastbeats and a fiery solo. It does a good job setting the tone for what’s to come; the album has a pervasive sense of disillusionment and resentment. Towards what I can’t say for sure (my Icelandic is about on par with Papa Joe’s Japanese), but that’s not important. What really matters here is that the band is able to take that emotion, get you invested in it, and run with it. The vocalist (under the moniker “Ö”) in particular does an excellent job of carrying that feeling forward. While the drums, guitar, and bass are all more than serviceable, it’s the stellar vocal performance that really makes this album. His approach to screaming- part shout, part scream, and part singing- proves to be incredibly versatile, providing melody and atonality in equal measure. It’s a powerful performance to be sure, and it’s the highlight of the album as far as I’m concerned.
However, this album is not without its flaws. The rest of the band doesn’t quite live up to the strength of the vocals. That’s not to say they’re subpar; the vocals and the rest of the music fit each other quite well, in fact. They just don’t stand out quite as much. Furthermore, there are some issues in pacing. Album centerpiece “Falið” can drag on towards the end if you’re not prepared for a solid 15 minute black metal song, and the closer meanders a little bit as well. Those of you with short attention spans need not apply.
Minor complaints aside, Allir vegir til glötunar is very much worth your time. It’s powerful, it’s emotional, and god dammit, it’s just a good piece of music. Does it push the envelope? Well, not a whole lot. But it’s very good at what it does, and that’s what’s important. Naðra has come out swinging, and I look forward to where they go from here.
3.5/5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell