Written By: Hell³

Draugurinn_IsaveturSweden’s Draugurinn is the dark ambient personification of one-woman-band, Dísa Á. Even though she didn’t make a blip on my metal detector until recently, that hasn’t been for a lack of effort on her part. With both Draugurinn and her black metal persona, Turdus Merula, she’s been releasing quite the number of full-lengths since 2010. Finding a new home on the Nordvis label, she’s awoken this project from a three year slumber and released Ísavetur, her first new album since 2012s Móðuharðindin. That predecessor album, besides having a name that looks nigh-impossible to pronounce, was also her first to be inspired by the cataclysmic eight-month long volcanic eruption at Lakagígar, Iceland in 1783. Ísavetur touches on the same grim theme and tries to rebuild and reinterpret the atmosphere created on the previous release.

First of all, I wouldn’t call this metal by any means. Sure, it’s got plenty of haunting dark ambience, but even an open-ended definition of the genre needs more than a stark, moody tenor to make any sense at all. That being said, there is enough black metal influence on the music to justify it’s inclusion on these pages. This influence takes the form of shrieking vocals on opening track “I,” recalling The Crystal World-era Locrian with its morose vibe. It’s also clear from the start that this is not the kind of blackened ambience you’ve heard from groups like Lurker of Chalice. Instead Draugurinn is more like a gloomier Dead Can Dance or a more spartan and primal version of This Mortal Coil. It’s also quite similar to the work of Ulf Söderberg under his Sephiroth moniker.

This is the kind of music you can put on and lose yourself in for its 50 minute length. The use of keyboards provide most of the melody and deliver a natural, authentic feel. The production is richly textured with great dynamics, allowing the acoustic and tribal instruments to breathe, thereby achieving a great balance between the modern and archaic. There are no thundering guitars here, with Dísa instead utilizing a wide variety of bells, rattles, and tribal drums combined with the extensive keyboard and vocal layerings. With all this going on, she somehow manages to create a sparse, barren soundscape that mimics the alien scenery left by a volcanic disaster.

Draugurinn_2015b

Ísavetur’s minimalism could be an obstacle for the average listener, despite the severity it lends to the music. There is very little melody by design, and the tracks are stripped to the most basic compositional structure. Even the production treats the melody as a background element to be subsumed beneath the pulsating drone and totemic rhythm work. Tracks feel drawn out a few minutes longer than they should, but this is mostly nitpicking because there’s not much here that can be fairly be called filler. Particularly enjoyable are the odd numbered tracks with the really distinctive mood each is given. “I” has more of a liturgical feel, with almost choral vocal layering. “III” is more ritualistic, with the use of primal-sounding horns that highlight the throbbing rhythm, creating something akin to a Native American feel. Closing in a strong way, “IIIII” has a solid cinematic mood that begins with a shiny bell sketching the melody until the soaring keyboards flesh out what could be the soundtrack of a big budget sci-fi movie.

Despite the limited appeal for the regular metal listener, there is much to like about Ísavetur. It may demand more attention than most ambient music, but it’s hard to dismiss the album’s deliberate tone and mood. Few things create a more universal connection than the shared sense of loss a natural disaster leaves behind. Even if this particular event took place more than two centuries ago, the artist’s obvious connection to the period allows her to craft a beautifully haunting musical landscape capable of taking listeners on a journey back into the ash-clogged darkness. An engaging and unusual outing providing many reasons why we should look forward to her more metallic projects.


Score: 3.5/5.0
DR: 11 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Nordvis Produktion
Websitesbandcamp.com  |  Facebook.com/pages/Draugurinn
Releases Worldwide: August 21st 2015

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  • Doomdeathrosh

    Really digging the ambience! In fact, if she can create this atmosphere in her not-metal persona….I’ll have to check Turdus Merula out!

  • Monsterth Goatom

    Nice review. And I applaud AMG for lately covering a lot of the great female artists out there like Chelsea Wolfe and Myrkur.

    On a side note, your mention of Dead Can Dance and This Mortal Coil flicked a switch in my brain, as I’m reminded of the spoken-word section of Steven Wilson’s Perfect Life:
    “We’d listen to her mix tapes;
    Dead Can Dance, Felt, This Mortal Coil… “

    • I’ve always seen ambient as a kind of a common ground between non-metal people and me. In my experience, if I play good dark ambient it always gets more attention on the general office populace than, say, Mgla 😜. And if I hear someone hearing Dead Can Dance or This Mortal Coil I can be sure we can have something else in common on musical tastes.

      • Monsterth Goatom

        Yea, I don’t think I’ll be playing Anaal Nathrakh anytime soon out loud at the office. :)

        Would you include Tim Hecker in your definition of ambient? I really like some of his stuff, like Ravedeath 1972.

        • I think so, yeah. Even though he’s more Drone, I think he rides the line between the two quite well sometimes. And now I have to hear that one again.

  • Kronos

    Really? She names her black metal act after a fucking thrush?

    • Personally, I would have gone with “unladen swallow” for my name.

      • Monsterth Goatom

        African or European swallow?

      • Carlos Marrickvillian

        lol, I love the Monty Python references that pop up on these pages!

    • A first draft had me pleading not to think it was some sort of fake latin joke.

  • Feytalist

    Oh yeah, this popped up on my radar with the one-song preview on the Nordvis bandcamp. Peaked my interest, and I’d certainly like to hear more. I’m always interested in discovering good dark ambient.

    Thanks for the review!

    • It’s already a complete stream on nordvis bandcamp and I also saw it available on GPM.

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    You’ve got me interested. Will check this out today.

  • AlphaBetaFoxface

    Been looking for something like this for a while. Brilliant review, brilliant find! Thank you and thank you

  • basenjibrian

    This is pretty mesmerizing stuff, guys.
    Thanks for the reco (again!)

  • This one sample song is pretty amazing. Would fit nice in a game or movie soundtrack.