Hamferð first came to my attention following the publication of my review of the most recent Barren Earth record. The two bands share a vocalist—Jón Aldará—and his voice was the absolute highlight of On Lonely Towers. However, at the time, Evst was already two years old, and so I never reviewed it. But already then, it was obvious to me that this Faroese funeral doom band was something special. Hamferð plays a style of doom that is thankfully impervious to serious trendiness. Truly excellent doom is pretty rare,1 and I have developed a bit of an aversion to the doom genre because my promo inbox is populated by a glut of stoned, raw-water-drinking hipsters trying to play Black Sabbath riffs as though they were interesting and/or novel nearly 50 years after they were first written. But when done well, doom metal can be an intense, beautiful, and crushing genre. And Hamferð does it well.
Támsins likam (The Body of Mist) is a concept album whose story precedes the band’s 2013 album Evst. The main character is the same, but Támsins likam introduces the perspective of his wife as the pair grieves the loss of a child to illness. On the opening track, “Fylgisflog” (Flight for Procession), the woman imagines herself escaping her responsibility for maintaining family stability, while the man sinks into a depression, losing sight of the needs of his wife and remaining son. The parents’ different ways of grieving leads to a conflict that grows throughout the story, which ultimately leads to tragedy (“Hon syndrast” [She Disintegrates]), but not resolution (“Vápn i anda” [Armed in Spirit]). While the lyrics are in Faroese, guitarist and composer Theodor Kapnas manages to communicate the story deftly through the album’s feel.
Támsins likam feels like a slow build, but reveals itself to be circular in its final strains. The album is deliberate and crushing; doom to the core, with leaden guitars, and thick, ponderous bass and drums. Or it’s supple and mournful; padded with ethereal resonances—cellos, double bass, grand piano or Esmar Joensen’s soft keys. Over top of this, Aldará’s voice is perfectly suited for the whole range of emotions conveyed throughout. This is perfectly demonstrated on “Fylgisflog,” where his mournful song—which at times reminded me of Eowyn’s song of mourning in The Two Towers—gives way to a scream of pain and rasping growls that evoke Still Life-era Opeth.
Each track on Támsins likam reveals different wrinkles of the band’s sound. “Stygd” (Cowardice) starts with vocal choirs and meditative feel. “Tvístevndur meldur” (The Two-headed Whirlwind) starts with grand piano and ends on a note that doesn’t resolve, while “Frosthvarv” (Fleeting Frost) wanders deep into Katatonia territory at its outset, before giving way to a wicked fury. The fury of “Frosthvarv” is followed by the album’s undeniable emotional peak on “Hon syndrast.” Hamferð picks up the tempo a bit here with crunchy guitars in a quarter-note feel that are easy to nod along with. Aldará’s vocals peak and the track breaks into the most intense material on the album, cresting into a blast beat at one point. This gives way to the album’s closer, “Vápn i anda,” and when the final track circles back around to the album’s opening strains, it’s as effective a recapitulation as I’ve ever heard.
Hamferð demonstrates excellent musicianship and compositional intelligence on Támsins likam. Of particular note is the work of their inventive, clever drummer Remi Kofoed Johannesen. Hamferð plays some of its slowest material without the drums keeping time. Instead, Johannesen riffs languidly along on his toms, letting the rhythm go tacit (like on “Stygd”). This is difficult at any speed, but it may be harder at the speed of dirge. But the drums, like the whole band, work in unison with the whole band; the guitars and bass are arranged so perfectly that they function orchestrally. Ísak Petersen’s bass anchors Hamferð‘s fat, meaty riffs, and the guitarists—John Áki Egholm and the aforementioned Kapnas—drop subtle solos and demonstrate fantastic feel for their instruments. And, as the best vocalists do, Jón ties the album together. He demonstrates the ability to work with everything asked of him, and to shine. Whether he strikes a mournful tone, a beastly growl, angelic cleans, or a tortured cry, Aldará’s performance is striking and beautiful.
Támsins likam is an artful album from an extremely promising band. All of the writing and excellent performances are mixed to perfection, and Daniel Bergstrand and Kapnas’ production is meticulous. The result is a record that is immense, enrapturing and moving. Some records are just so good that as a reviewer, I encourage you to just take 45 minutes, a pair of headphones, and find a dark place to sit or lay, and let the Támsins likam wash over you. The album exudes depth, intensity, loss and sadness. I can wax poetic about Aldará’s brass-like voice or Johanessen’s clever drumming, or Kapnas’ excellent composition, but Támsins likam is an album that should simply be allowed to speak for itself.