Auðn – Vökudraumsins Fangi Review

It’s one thing to write a review of a returning band you’ve reviewed before. It’s a whole other ballgame to review a returning band that one of the most respected and revered staff members on the site has covered previously.1 If their review was controversially critical about a popular young artist well on the rise, the pressure only mounts. Not that I disagree with Grymm’s take on Auðn’s last offering. Being relatively fresh to black metal and its myriad offshoots, I hadn’t heard Farvegir Fyrndar before, but on a cursory spin, the unpopular stance that the production ruined an otherwise very solid piece of Icelandic atmo-black rang true with yours truly. Have the rising stars polished up their output or are they stuck in the mud once more?

Lo and behold, it appears the boys have actually heeded the criticism! The production on Vökudraumsins Fangi far outstrips its predecessors. It’s dynamic and has good depth and layering. You can actually hear the bass this time around! And in stark contrast to popular argument, it does not detract from the atmosphere. Auðn still sound cold and stark like the mountains of their homeland. The songs vary from steady mid-paced sluggers to pummeling hymns laden with tremolo, but with both, the band proves itself capable of conjuring dreary moods and melodies weaving through battering drums underpinned with skillfully employed bass. Hjalti Sveinsson howls and shrieks his heart out through the mic, and his pain sounds earnest even though I can’t understand a word of the messages he conveys.

Whereas the band’s glaring weak spot has been salvaged gracefully, their strengths remain the same, and the album has plenty of standout moments to remind us of that. “Eldborg” throws a little death metal into the mix for a hefty bottom-end, creating an avalancheous track of startling directness. “Verður von að bráð” takes a moment to showcase Pálsson’s skillful drumming, while “Horfin mér” dips from searing desperation to a somber mid-paced melancholy. The best arrives late in the game, though. The intro to “Ljóstýra” impresses with an almost Hamferð level of mournful sorrow before diving headfirst into a twisting maelstrom, but the self-titled closer allows for a ray of light in its beautiful, melodic instrumentation.

It’s not a perfect record, though the fault lies not in any particular moment or easy to finger flaw. Rather, the album stretches itself a little thin at times, despite all its myriad qualities. The running time is close to an hour, and in that duration there are a few stretches where the record feels a little too aimless to demand my attention. Some sounds and ideas repeat a time or two too often to hold water, or a riff doesn’t carry enough weight. It’s never truly detrimental, and Fangi is never less than enjoyable and frequently great, but it makes it difficult on occasion to listen with full focus.

Still, third time is a charm and a half ahead of the band’s sophomore outing, if only because the production has improved so much. It’s amazing how much difference a better mix and master makes. It allows for the emotion in the music to shine through that much more. It makes it easier to appreciate the prodigious musicianship within the band and the depth of their songwriting. It improves the experience of listening because it allows you to immerse yourself in Vökudraumsins Fangi, rather than focusing to pick up all the details. Auðn have created the perfect argument for better production, even in black metal, and with it they have officially risen up to the hype surrounding them.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Season of Mist
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: October 30th, 2020

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  1. But I’ve never covered Auðn before. – Holdeneye
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