A heavy cloud of cigarette smoke and a gloss of leathery inebriation lined the gateway into NASA that night. A sense of powerful debauchery was spilling out of the door, onto the sidewalks of Austurvöllur, and festering among the pockets of people soiling their larynxes, perfecting their pre-show growls. It was almost 23:30, and the scent in the air was strong. It was the smell of HAM.
As my cohorts and I enter the hall, we cross paths with Raggi from Swords Of Chaos, sadly informing us that we just missed their set—entirely unintentional and horribly devastating. It was reportedly one of their greatest performances, one of the biggest crowds they have played to and got an incredible reaction. We felt thoroughly like pieces of shit and envious of those who did catch their set. My apologies, Swords.
Our late entrance has also assured us a fantastic spot at the very back of the sold out room. We took our places firmly underneath the sound booth, where your writer’s view consisted of a sea of leather jackets and long, greasy hair. Despite of having no view of the stage whatsoever, the rumble of the room was palpable as HAM marched onto the stage brimming with the murderous rage that comes with maturity.
The occasion was not just one of unadulterated rock and disjointed thrashing; it was a joyful celebration of their much awaited and greatly anticipated sophomore album, ‘Svik, harmur og dauði’ A twenty-two year wait for it has not only allowed the members of the band to engage in various acts of joining municipal government and raising hell in other bands, it has given the good name of HAM time to simmer in caché. A gestation period to become legendary.
The crowd in attendance was a balanced mixture of the old, the young and the infantile. Those who were around from the beginning, when HAM released their first album in 1989, an album bred out of green, youthful fury and fun. The ones who were raised on them, who grew up listening second-hand because of their parents or siblings and eventually adopted the album themselves. And the new breed, either unaware until now or freshly exposed to HAM in their current state: cured, roasted and whisky glazed.
The songs that pulsed through the room that night were anthemic. Having the advantage of playing in one of the best concert venues and clearly having a sound-tech who cares about them made the sound nothing short of impeccable. The only sounds of grime and disgust were those intentionally written into the music. Not only did they churn out the bulk of their new record, including the head-smashing hits ‘Ingimar’ and ‘Dauð hóra,’ but delivered their old songs with tall pride.
The crowning glory of the night happened when they launched into one of their biggest hits ‘Partýbær,’ which was famously featured in the classic movie ‘Sódóma Reykjavík.’ The entire room was suddenly hypnotised into a simultaneous surge, throwing their heads forward and back with a collective grace and intensity. Having found a good spot on the back steps with a full-room view when this happened, it actually caused this writer to quietly declare: “Whoa.”
Looking straight ahead at the men on the stage by now was mesmerising. At the very least because we were appropriately inebriated by now, but mostly from the sheer power exuded by their playing and their presence. The odd combination of personalities and styles they bring forth through both their musician- and performanceship is the true essence of their success and mystique, and whether they ever make another album together again, they have had new life breathed into them. They are not even close to dead. They are delicious.