Skálmöld have established themselves at the forefront of Icelandic Heavy Metal with their debut album and a slew of well-attended, impeccably executed concerts. I first saw them in action when I attended the release show for their debut album ‘Baldur,’ and I was properly blown away.
I am not a heavy metal fan, but I have respect for all kinds of music. I had heard Skálmöld’s debut album, and liked what I heard. I was not sure what expect from the concert, however; would their live show live up to ex-pectations set by ‘Baldur’? I left that show convinced that Skálmöld had a great future ahead of them, and that they are most likely the best heavy metal band Iceland has borne as of yet.
The band had only played a handful of dates before their release show at Tjarnarbíó earlier this year. They performed ‘Baldur’ in its entirety, from start to finish, with narration, a slide show and films adding to the experience. They performed like the professionals they are, never missing a beat and even adding an extra guitar lick here and there.
The house was packed with rock fans, old and young. I was so blown away that I decided to call them up that following morning to learn more about the band.
I got in touch with guitarist Þráinn Árni Baldvinsson, who told me their story so far.
HEAVY METAL DREAMS
Skálmöld was formed in the autumn of 2009. The members come from various local groups (Ampop, Hraun, Klamedia X, Trassar, Innvortis and Ljótu hálfvitarnir, to name a few), some of them dance bands, some pop, some ambient and some punk bands—but no heavy metal ones.
Bibbi, Snæbjörn Ragnarsson, bass player, singer and lyricist, put the band together. “Bibbi was the one who set it all in motion. Calling people, and assembling his dream band,” Þráinn told me over the phone.
It is interesting that none of them come from the capital city. Bibbi and his brother, guitarist, multi in-strumentalist and singer Baldur, hail from Húsavík, the whale and penis-museum watching town in the north, along with singer and guitarist Björgvin Sigurðsson. Þráinn Árni Baldvinsson, guitarist and singer, and Gunnar Ben, keyboardist and singer, are farm boys from the north, and Jón Geir Jóhannsson, who plays the drums and sings, comes from Ísafjörður, on the
northwest corner of Iceland. Skálmöld’s members also engage in music teaching and choir conducting, and they still play in other bands too. They are a busy lot.
Rumour has it that the band and the album ‘Baldur’ began life as a folk rock project. Indeed, one senses strong folk influences on the album. “Yes, this was going to be a folk-band, you would have liked our Fairport Convention influences,” Þráinn tells me. “That said, we were going to play rock but with flutes and various folky instruments accompanying the guitars. Our guitarist Baldur was to play the flutes and other instruments more than his guitar. However, it soon evolved into metal, with three guitars!”
He continues: “The last one to join was choir conductor Gunnar Ben, who is the only one who does not have a history in heavy metal. He was very enthusiastic though, and he soon made all the extra sounds we needed, giving Baldur room to shine on his guitar instead of playing flutes!”
“Bibbi had the original idea in his mind, the story, the lyrics and the text. That was the framework and we all contributed to the songs. The album draws from the Sagas and from Nordic Mythology, which puts it in a category with metal bands from Norway and Germany, along with Faeroe Islands. Týr are sometimes called Viking Rock.”
2011: A BUSY YEAR
The band has signed a three record deal with Austria’s Napalm Records. ‘Baldur’ was released worldwide on July 27, to great acclaim, and Skálmöld start promoting it at the Wacken Metal Festival in August. The band is at the time of writing on tour in Europe, with a gruelling schedule of 24 consecutive gigs. “It will hopefully promote the album well. We’re touring as a part of the Heidenfest tour, where Viking metal bands from all over the world tour together. This will be something special!” Þráinn told me shortly before they left.
The band is definitely building a strong following of metal fans, and even strange followers who have curious ears, like me! Their record deal will see ‘Baldur’ distributed and promoted through Europe, South and North America and Japan. The worldwide release of Baldur was extended to include a new bonus track, which is more than ten minutes long.
“We went into the studio in the beginning of April and recorded an extra track for the world-wide release. Based on that, the next record will not be any softer!” Þráinn told me.
“We have to deliver our next album in the beginning of next January. It’s scheduled for release in May of 2012. So we are busy composing new music, when we’re not playing shows. We have loads of ideas and all of us are com-posing—it is coming along well!”
The band has already received a great response from “all over the world! From Turkey to South America—people seem to be like the Icelandic Viking Metal! We’ve had great reviews from some of the premier metal critics. The Germans are extremely positive and like the Icelandic lyrics, it seems to be some kind of ‘Nonni und Manni’ craze there, they only want it in Icelandic, not translated! We are very happy with that!”
Þráinn concluded: “The future… it is bright. We don’t have any crazy dreams about the next album, or any crazy dreams about conquering the world, but we are going to do our best and enjoy it to the hilt. If we con-tinue to be sincere and honest, I think we‘ll do well.”