Having been savouring the fiery metal output of this frozen land for a while when they have ventured south, Svartidaudi at Hells Pleasure Festival, Misthyrming at Roadburn and North of the Wall, to see something of the highly regarded scene on their home hallowed ground would warm my blackened heart as well as my other extremities. Would have thought the chances were high, given that the country scores in the top league of metal bands per capita like their Scandinavian brethren, and with their capital city containing about half of the country’s mere 300,000 population.
However, in the period of my visit here couldn’t really find anything on the listings, ironically some quality locals like World Narcosis and Dead Herring were in the UK at the same time as I was away. Gahh, I was settled to just enjoy the amazing landscapes outside as intended but the pagan gods work in mysterious ways and when wandering back to our flat from a tour of the sights saw a sandwich board outside a club announcing an album launch for Nexion with supports. Tonight. A quick online search, “an audio maelstrom of darkness and decay”? Right up my street!
Returned for about the half nine start time, a mere £7 intro for the four bands I thought very reasonable. Not so much the £8 pint to follow! Baulked at the £30 vinyl too, no matter how lovely it looked, guess the locals live with and lump these prices.
A dark upstairs club venue, excellent space and pretty busy from the start, probably over a hundred at least. CXVIII (pronounced CXV3, and not 118 I discovered later, doubt they’ll have heard of the phone line) started almost immediately, and won me over instantly. Devastatingly heavy riffs of doom from the black-masked three piece, no bass so I guess the frequencies were covered with detuning and pedals. Powerful, soaring vocals too. Through excellent structures they drifted through sonorous Type O Negative gothic touches, Paradise Lost dissonance and Godflesh dirge steamrolling and I am glad I came already.
0 described as “reawakened” as presumably they haven’t been about much recently since their 2012 origin, their intro sounded like some jolly kids TV show theme, and when the band entered in uniform white nightshirts and no trousers I thought we were in for some comedy entertainment. Far from it, they launch into some morose and melancholy doom, given a blackened edge with the singer’s tortuous howls and shrieks as he crouches on the floor. Excellent achingly sad atmospherics, with some fast outbursts, only slightly distracted by the rhythm guitarist’s over the top posturing on the monitors, working those cameras, baby.
Less theatrics from Dynfari, the only matching outfits here were a couple of Death t-shirts, and a more progressive approach to the music. Starting with a rousing spoken word piece, they then seem to lock into a more conventional metal groove before exploding out into full-on black metal blasting. To be fair these sections are occasional though just as effective in contrast to the more atmospheric pieces they work through. A diverse mix, with obvious musician skills, and another strong performance from the lead vocal, who could probably cut it in many a style of rock band.
Finally, Nexion bring a more straightforward and brutal attack to the fore. Much more death metal with a black angle, there’s a steadily pounding intensity and drive to their songs. In style as well as substance I am struck with familiar elements of both Hecate Enthroned and Obituary, some serious dedication to heaviness. There’s a close knit feel to the musicians, as the tracks thunder along, and the front man orchestrates the performance and gives a wild eyed ritual for the gathered crowd to share. It’s their S/T album they are showcasing and while I don’t get it tonight I’ll be checking it out for sure.
After 1 a.m. I am still leaving before the end which makes a pleasant change to UK venues finishing gigs at 10 to get a club night on, and it’s been an excellent bonus insight into the Icelandic underground. New discoveries on epic journeys. There’s a distinct lack of acknowledgement of internationally respected extreme bands when I later visit the Icelandic Museum of Rock’n’Roll, maybe both sides are happy about that or maybe their time will inevitably come. Keep up the dark work!