“Hey Eyþór! What’s that strange shiny thing up in the sky there?”
“I don’t know man, but it’s doing weird things to my skin. Plus I don’t have rickets anymore!”
Hallelujah! After the previous couple of years, which saw temperatures plummet to the point where an Ice Giant’s bits would break off, Eistnaflug 2012 saw glorious sunshine and warm balmy temperatures. It’s like being on holiday or something!
And so when the festival commenced on Thursday, people were either outside drinking in the sun, or still trying to get to Neskaupstaður. Those that did venture inside got to see the opening band IN THE COMPANY OF MEN. And they were all over the fucking place, musically speaking. It was going for the hardcore energy of At The Drive-In with the avant jazz/funk that you’d get with Mike Patton projects such as Mr Bungle and Fantómas, but the transition between styles was a bit clunky to say the least. That being said, they were a hoot to watch. The singer is the spit for a young Ron Burgundy leaping about all over the place, while the guitarist was skanking like a gibbon. Extra points also for their last song which consisted of all of them screaming “FUCK YOU ÞORSTEINN!” at their drunken fan in the crowd.
Enough of all this japery, we need this festival to start for realz! Step up please OPHIDIAN I, the new kids on the scene. Made up of selected cuts from Angist, Severed Crotch and Beneath, their pounding technical death metal was probably the best since, err, Severed Crotch. It was so technical the bass player had a SEVEN STRING BASS! But luckily, the tightness and proficiency was double plus good, which allowed singer Ingó to channel his “homeless person on bath salts” persona. It all brought out the first true piece of moshing of the day. Hard and intense music. The woman in the corner reading the Anne Rice novel was a bit non-plussed by it all though.
BLOOD FEUD took the pace down a little, but still kept a fair amount of the intensity. These guys were bringing it old school with some much needed thrash, along with swinging axe attack solos and duelling vocal parts. While it wasn’t flashy or two fiddly and there were a couple of flat moments in their set, the crowd were certainly feeling the love, with a rash of m/ hand signs, and the first calls for an encore.
Next up were grind doom whippersnappers LOGN. I have a lot of time and love for these guys. Despite their youth (one of the factors why they haven’t played at Eistnaflug before), they have the right militant attitude to their craft and the tunes to match. But something is amiss today as their musical attack seems a little underpowered. The reason becomes obvious after a few minutes when we realise that bass player Óðinn is not on stage. It turns out that he’s stuck in nearby Eskifjörður and desperately trying to reach the venue! The other three manfully do their best to take up the slack, especially vocalist Fritz and drummer Ægir. We’re treated to a great climax in true Hollywood fashion on the final song when Óðinn rushes through the venue to leap on stage, plug in his bass and finish the final song without missing a beat. What a trooper!
And he’s not the only one. As Logn finish, my esteemed colleague Rebecca Louder arrives, wide eyed and breathless, apologising profusely. Hugs are exchanged as I venture outside to start drinking and to have an argument with a seagull about nu-metal…
As Bob Cluness was getting himself all worked up with the birds over the Coal Chamber vs. Orgy debate outside, I was inside with MOLDUN getting a nice reminder of why I went to nu-metal shows when I was fourteen. The fact that it’s barely 5:00 is no issue for the band who make it their business to do it as big and bombastically as they can, as do their fans! Mob rule takes over and the head banging spreads. If there’s one thing these guys aren’t lacking it’s showmanship, with singer Haukur locked in a presiding congressional stance and their drummer doing a Michael Flatley number on his kit. Not sure I’m into all this positivity though. “Everything is going to be alright”? What kind of message is that to send to metalheads!?
After a quick break outside just long enough to be ganged up on for liking sumaröl (it’s delicious!), I headed back in to catch HELLVAR in supergroup mode with Haukur from Morðingjarnir and Birkir from I Adapt rounding out the band. Eistnaflug always has its quotient of “indie” acts and I guess you could do worse than this. There is the sense that they’ve “hardened up” their set for the festival and they’re laying the guitars extra thick. It’s fine, but nothing to write home about.
Despite what the name suggests, ELÍN HELENA is not a furious hardcore troubadouress. More like a flip dad-punk band with a pair of wailing, flailing middle-aged dudes at the front. It’s like footballers at karaoke without the machine, bros being bros, and it’s brilliant. This is the most fun you’re not having. There’s confetti and growling and leaping about in circles, the performative energy most commonly found at the bottom of a tequila bottle, Bob Cluness charging the stage to give one of the singers a big ol’ kiss, people pogo-ing and shouting for more in the audience. It’s like that scene in ‘24 Hour Party People’ where the Sex Pistols play for the first time—raw, wild and captivating.
Next it was time for the desperate housewives of WISTARIA. If there is one thing that the entire world of metal is really missing, it’s more chest thumping dudes showing off their public drinking skills and using their instruments as masturbatory objects. Not! It could be forgiven if they backed it up with incredible composition and true mastery of their music, or even had something really important to say, but as it stands they are just run-of-the-mill cock-rock. Not that they’re overcompensating…
Unlike the previous, CARPE NOCTEM have always been a fully committed kind of band that dedicates as much to composing fantastic black metal along with creating an appropriately deathly personae to round it out. They really give a new meaning to corpsepaint, and their guitarist looks like he buried his clothes pre-show. Something about their show makes them seem not quite at their top notch, more subdued than usual, the singer even seems a bit sluggish. They still fill Egilsbúð with sinister, odd and droningly harsh melodies along with deathly, pagan imagery to boot.
And then MOMENTUM are up. Ride that big red wave—the ginger-dragon roareth! They are one of those bands that just fucking steamroll you. Waves and waves of deep, loud, grinding frequencies that physically push you off your centre of gravity. You have to take a pugilist stance to not get knocked down. I’m always afraid they are going to hit the brown note. Or hopeful? I don’t know. They are so forceful, and yet utterly simple in their approach. There is little motion from the players and a touch of friendly chatting between songs, but as soon as the picks hit the strings it’s like an effortless shove in the chest. After this, I have to get some air!
It took a little while to recover from the fiery blaze that was Momentum but I still got back in ample time to see the second awesome dad-punk band of the night, INNVORTIS. An acquaintance points out to me that this is the Eistnaflug of band comebacks—Botnleðja and I Adapt are playing on Saturday night, and Innvortis are returning from a 14 year absence. It definitely looks like a warm welcome back to these Kotters, with the crowd moshing like crazy, clapping along and crowd surfing to their fast, fun, upbeat, hardcore crust-punk. It’s back to basics and full of good vibes, topped off with excellent beards. For all the complaints I have personally had on the absence of a proper punk scene with a good old school M.O., this pretty much makes up for it entirely.
Anyway, all good things must come to an end, so it was time for GONE POSTAL. Okay, this band is good at a technical level, but they are just so overly precise and formulaic that at all ends up sounding samey and lifeless. The only time it feels as though they are experimenting compositionally, it just follows techniques and patterns that have been done to death and bring little flourish to defining their own unique sound. Even their attempt at a “look”—matching black hoodies—is pretty lazy. There’s potential, they just need to put it to better use.
It’s a well-known fact that SÓLSTAFIR usually play on the first night of the festival so that they can spend the rest of it partying like the ship’s going down. It’s an honest approach, but it still can’t help coming across a bit like, “let’s just do this and go get drunk actually fuck it bring the bottle with you.” But you know what they say: don’t fuck with the original! When something keeps working so consistently with a band that has gone through some massive changes over the years (no better proof of which came the following evening with an incredible performance of their early material at the Mayhemisphere off-venue), it’s hard to deny it. Their transition from weirdo black-ish metal to solid standard-fare hardrock has been a bit of a trip up to some. In fact, back at the campsite someone asked into the ether “why do people still like Sólstafir?” and no one ever reached a valid conclusion against liking them. If their cult-like grasp on the crowd is no more than nostalgic enrapture, then they’re already more permanently established than most artists can hope for. Don’t fuck with it.
We also reviewed Eistnaflug Friday and Saturday.