Published April 29, 2015
A friend of mine once said to me, “You know, black metal is a lot cleverer than it thinks it is.” And while many black metalheads, in their quest to be the tr00est ov cvlt, would run for a mile at the merest hint of intellectualising their music (see: the ten tons of shit heaped upon Liturgy’s Hunter Hunt-Hendrix for daring to publish a black metal “manifesto”), the fact is that black metal deals with weighty metaphysical stuff that would give most philosophy students a run for their money: religion, the afterlife, God, evil, being and nothingness. It wallows in the terrifying, inhuman stuff that most of us would prefer not to think about, lest we find ourselves curled up in the foetal position, weeping existential tears.
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If it seems that we’re going down a huge theoretical bent, that’s because ‘Söngvar elds og óreiðu,’ (“Songs of fire and chaos”)—the debut album by Icelandic black metal outfit Misþyrming—contains some of the most thorough musical articulations of inhumanity and nothingness I’ve heard from an album in a long while. And considering that their contemporaries include the likes of Svartidauði and Sinmara, this is not an idle claim. From the depiction of a cave/abyss of molten fire on the album cover, to the leviathan nature of the music, there is a nihilistic intent that defies you not to engage with their music.
The opening salvos of “Söngur heiftar” (“Song of fury”) and “…Af þjáningu og þrá” (“… Of suffering and longing”) are sulphurous blasts of fury and disarray that still contain a clarity and structure that hearken back to BM’s early days, circa Mayhem and Enslaved’s ‘Vikingligr Veldi’, when you had riffs and lead lines, and not just pointless blasting and thrashing. But the real fun starts when they decide to put the metal down and step into the annihilation. “Frostauðn” (“Frost desolation”) is an ambient black hole of desolation, with piercing string tones that would kill fans of Júníus Meyvant if they stood too close to it. Then, towards the end, you have “Ég byggði dyr í eyðimörkinn” (“I built a door in the desert”), an epic track that incorporates elements of death metal ringing-note guitars and thundering tom rhythms enhanced by guttural, echoing vocals. It builds itself up into a frenzy before eventually dying into “Stjörnuþoka” (“Galaxy”), a synth-heavy dirge of cosmic despair that slowly tears itself apart, disappearing back into the nothing.
The accompanying blurb to the album’s Bandcamp page exclaims “VITALITY THROUGH DARKNESS,” a declaration of the band’s position in terms of creating an album that is a brilliant testament of a sepulchral philosophy of negation and refusal. It might sound like they’re willing for the end, but it is merely the beginning of the awakening from your slumber.
If you fancy catching Misþyrming live, you’ll get a chance to see them and their friends on May 22 at Húrra. Read about the event here, on our listings website.