When it comes to selecting albums to review, I rely on a tried-and-mostly-tr00 method of meticulous selection that’s been proven to garner conversations around water bubblers and soda machines the world over: I sometimes randomly just pick shit from a list and think, “Okay, that’s cool. Let’s give that a shot.” Behold, today’s selection is Iceland’s Dynfari, a duo I knew absolutely nothing about prior to handpicking their newest (and third) album, Vegferð tímans. Other than being labeled as “atmospheric black metal,” I went into Vegferð tímans blind. However, after giving many spins over the last couple of weeks, I wasn’t prepared for the surprising amount of glacial beauty and dark comfort that Vegferð tímans contained.
With some exceptions, I would even go as far as to say there’s very little of what you would call “black metal” on Vegferð tímans save for the first three tracks, which reminds me of Drudkh with the atmospherics of Sigur Rós. After instrumental opener “Ljósid” shimmers and pummels in a mid-paced crawl, “Óreiða” gently eases you in with some simple chords, a sole violin, and some slow drumming before guitarist/bassist/vocalist Jóhann Örn screeches and howls over the terse, steady rhythms of drummer/guitarist Jón Emil. All of it is competently played, but the problem is that it’s fairly run-of-the-mill. Not much, other than the introductory violin, grabs you and takes hold.
It’s not until fourth song (and album turn-around point) “Hafsjór” that the inherent beauty of Vegferð tímans begins to glisten like the moon on a colossal glacier. Örn’s beautiful baritone hymnal singing meshes well with the higher screams, and the soft acoustic guitars offer a beautiful contrast to the blackened riffing, the latter of which also reminds me of prime Austere. The “Vegferð” trilogy that wraps up the album also gives glimpses of brilliance, with “Vegferð II – Ad Astra” being the showcase. Soft female vocals, crooning male chants, shimmering acoustic guitars, and of course blastbeats and trebly guitars because, after all, this is a black metal band, exhibit a band with promise this early in their career, and is the one song I keep coming back to over and over, despite some hiccups.
“Wait,” I hear you gasping. “Hiccups? Dude, what now?” My complaints are two-fold. Trimming some of the longer, more droning parts on an album that feels a lot longer than the 55-minutes presented, could alleviate some of the dragging. And although the production is quite warm and undeniably dynamic, the mix has some major issues. There are some definite artifacts happening on here, such as the “whoooomp-whooooomp” around the 2:52 mark of “Vegferð II – Ad Astra” and some clipping on “Vegferð III – Myrkrið.” Both are apparent on either headphones or speakers, and they pull you out of an otherwise engaging listening experience. In fact, I would be interested to hear them do away with the black metal entirely and just go full-on folk, as they do it quite well.
As my virgin experience with Dynfari has come to a close, I may not have been entirely bowled over by Vegferð tímans, but they are a band with some definite promise. With a little bit more editing and some shedding of blackened tropes, I see them going on a long, fruitful voyage ahead. As it is, consider me intrigued, as what I heard on here shows some incredible ideas just waiting to come to fruition.