There’s something about Iceland that’s producing quite a number of impressive black metal bands. From Zhrine through to Solstafir, the vast amount of atmospheric, trance-inducing black metal coming from there is nothing short of inspirational. Hveragerði’s Auðn constructed themselves a respectable following with their self-titled debut back in 2014, blending bits of Primordial‘s folkier approach to their music. With Farvegir Fyrndar, the five-piece aims to broaden their scope, simultaneously crafting a denser atmosphere while retaining their ferocity when the situation demands. How successful are they in achieving such a lofty goal?
It starts off on a promising note with “Veröld Hulin,” with a jangly, almost-Primordial opening salvo of tribal drums and chord arpeggios, and like their Irish counterparts, they take their time repeating said salvo until you end up bobbing along, entering a trance-like state. Almost three minutes in, we see the band baring their fangs and digging in, with tremolo melodies, blasts, and vocalist Hjalti Sveinsson howling in his native tongue. The song fluctuates between blackened savagery and melodic tranquility, with the flow of the natural and organic, like witnessing a serene change of seasons unfolding. Auðn impresses early on, and like fellow country-mates Dynfari, their command of atmosphere is impeccable.
The careful balance of discordance and tranquility highlights Farvegir Fyrndar‘s strengths. Eight-minute album highlight “Haldreipi Hugans” weaves in and out of blackened tropes and more headier, interesting passages with relative ease and expert writing, make eight minutes feel like less. Those moments elevate Farvegir Fyrndar above their contemporaries, but a few things are holding the album back. For starters, as the songs progress, a sense of familiarity creeps in, blending songs and motifs together. While there are no bad moments on here, the repetitious nature of the album begins to rear its ugly head, with most of the album just passing by. Only on closer “Í Hálmstráið Held” does the aggression make its welcome return. Not helping things is Sveinsson’s delivery. Again, not a bad vocalist by any stretch, but he remains in one mode throughout the album’s entirety, relying only on shrieks and mid-range howls. While not horrible, it makes an album with little variety feel a bit tedious at times.
But the worst crime is levied against the production. The guitars sound beautiful when entering states of calmness, but when the tremolo kicks in, the guitars become a smothered wall of noise. The drums also become lifeless and stale, which is a damn shame as Sigurður Kjartan Pálsson plays his ass off during the various fills and flourishes across the album’s duration. Sadly, Hjálmar Gylfason’s (Dynfari) bass is practically non-existent, making an appearance here and there. With music this densely layered, you want every instrument to breathe and take life, not constrict it until all essence is choked out of it.
I wanted to love Farvegir Fyrndar more than I actually did, as all the ingredients are there. At the same time, though, I don’t hate it, either. When Farvegir Fyrndar is good, it paints a colorful portrait of their country’s serene backdrop and gorgeous weather. But more often than not, I find myself wanting a bit more from it.