Written by: AP on 03/01/2020 21:06:00

It has been a long and arduous wait for fans of Misþyrming, who have been ravenous for a successor to the Icelandic quartet’s début album “Söngvar elds og óreiðu”, which took the black metal scene by storm in 2015. And the waiting was rendered even more agonising for those of us who experienced the band playing this new album, “Algleymi”, live in its entirety at the 2016 edition of Roadburn. It was a magical performance, one that left me assured the record would be in the running for the best album that year, but alas, it never did arrive. I have to admit that frustration got the better of me eventually, and anticipation turned to resignation that “Algleymi” would never be heard in a studio format. Yet lo and behold! At the dawn of this year there was wind in the willows at last, as Misþyrming suddenly and matter of factly announced that the album was now ready to be unleashed soon. And four months later there it was, a child of Spring, beckoning with the urgency of alarm bells and melodies like sprays of freezing rain, to be established among the black metal genre’s royalty.

Black metal albums often begin with a grand orchestral intro piece, but Misþyrming skip the formalities, spurring “Algleymi” into immediate motion with the opening track “Orgia”. It rolls forth with thundering blastbeats and a startling lead which screams like a siren, its intensity surging without relent until the listener is left confounded, desperately gasping for breath in the few seconds that separate it from the subsequent “Með svipur á lofti”. It is a magnificent example of modern black metal (albeit not of the hip kind popularised by Deafheaven et al.) and charts a new course for the band, in which the Norwegian-school dissonance of their début album is toned down in favour of atmosphere. Reminiscent of, yet not too akin to Cascadian black metal, “Algleymi” carves out a unique niche for Misþyrming, with a deluge of resplendent melodies heaving from the guitars of frontman and main visionary Dagur Gíslason and his compatriot Tómas Ísdal as the former’s sinewy growls (not unlike Nergal’s) roar in the frostbitten expanse of the group’s soundscape. But while songs like “Ísland, Steingelda Krummaskuð” certainly stress-test black metal with respect to how much melody the genre can handle, Misþyrming’s exploits here are nothing if not extreme. Virtually all of the songs, with the exception of the Nordic folk-laced intermezzo “Hælið”, have an imposing disposition — an overwhelming defiance difficult to put in words — that bestows upon the music a kind of primeval force from which there is no escape.

This unyielding grip “Algleymi” has on the listener is only one of the ways in which Misþyrming separate themselves as wolves among sheep from the majority of their peers, however. Where most other black metal bands feel an absurd need to floor the pedal and unleash chaos at every turn, these Icelanders are keen to exercise restraint and experiment with a variety of rhythms and degrees of distortion. This is apparent both in parts of the aforementioned “Ísland…” and later in “Og Er Haustið Líður Undir Lok”, in which drummer Helgi Rafn Hróðmarsson enlists a marching rhythm and plaintive down-picked riff to produce something that, were it not for Gíslason’s unholy bellows, would not sound out of place on one of Sólstafir’s early records. The lugubrious melancholy of this song is then struck into stark contrast by the following “Allt Sem Eitt Sinn Blómstraði”, a temperamental piece of more traditional black metal in which Gíslason’s vocals reach new depths to take on a nigh demagogic character, liaising with an eerily ringing, ambient melody in the background to pay tribute to classic Behemoth. It is an intense track, but still it pales in comparison to the consummate highlight “Alsæla”, which delivers hands down one of the most audacious and haunting cascades of melody I have ever heard and rages with all the might of a winter storm sweeping over the Icelandic glaciers. Despite its hyper-melodic character, the track is an utterly merciless piece of music, progressive in its dynamics, awesome in its scope, and catchier than virtually any other black metal song. Really though, it simply accentuates all that Misþyrming succeed in on their latest opus, producing a kind of ultimate climax to an album bristling with standout moments like the subsequent, titular “Algleymi”.

Sitting on the edge of my seat throughout an entire album is something that only happens intermittently, but when the sensation arrives, it means the band in question has achieved something extraordinary. I have thought long and hard of reasons to criticise “Algleymi” and found none, which leads me toward a conviction that Misþyrming have in fact succeeded in the rare feat of writing and recording a complete album. Certainly it is the best black metal record I have heard in years, which also suffices to earmark it as one of the top picks of the decade from me — and while I have often caught myself jumping to hasty conclusions at the crest of euphoria, after countless sessions listening to, and dissecting “Algleymi”, I have absolutely no qualms about awarding it our most coveted rating.


Download: Orgia; Ísland, Steingelda Krummaskuð; Og Er Haustið Líður Undir Lok; Alsæla
For the fans of: Auðn, Behemoth, Mgła, Sinmara, Wolves in the Throne Room
Listen: Facebook

Release date 24.05.2019
Norma Evangelium Diaboli

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