Throughout its lifetime, Icelandic black metal has never been linked to good vibes, smiles and rainbows. Nor has black metal in general. After hearing Örmagna‘s self-titled debut album, which came out in early February, this becomes abundantly apparent.
One could argue that the current wave of Icelandic black metal is too recent to adhere to tradition, but there are threads that tie the scene together. Örmagna, though, is going their own way, both topically and musically.
A solo venture (in good company)
Örmagna (which translates to ‘Exhausted’) is the brainchild of Ö, who wished to remain anonymous for the article. The musician’s claim to fame is most notably being the frontman for local black metal group Naðra as well as being a member of various black metal projects for the last decade or so, for example Nvll, Mannveira, Dysthymia and many more. Örmagna is, however, the first that we hear from Ö that puts his own, personal writing efforts on display.
“It started with riffs and ideas I had for some of my other projects but they perhaps didn‘t fit perfectly with what they were doing, so the material was sidelined but I kept coming back to it,” Ö explains. “Before I knew it, I had puzzled together the first song. Shortly after, I had recruited members to assist in making the project come alive.“ These anonymous members mostly come from the other projects Ö is involved in.
Straying from the beaten path
Musically, Örmagna may not be the harshest or most brutal band out there, but even at their most melodic and groove-laden, such as in the title track of the album, there is this harrowing sense of sadness. It leans to the side of traditional black metal rather than the more dissonant, contemporary stuff, but breaks into doomy, heavy passages every now and then, which keeps things from going stale.
“The songs portrayed a different feeling than the other stuff I did; the lyrical themes are more in the area of addiction, abuse and lethargy. The closer to the bottom of being human, the better,“ explains Ö. This is evident in the albums closing track, ‘Dansar Saurs og Saurlífis,’ which roughly translates to ‘Dance of Filth and Deviance’.
Down and dirty
The vocals, though, are what truly sets Örmagna aside from their contemporaries. They often sound more like distressed yelling than howls, which just adds to the general feeling of despair throughout the album, making the songs significantly more gritty than grandiose, and giving the feeling that some point is being made rather than just trying to scare the shit out of the listener. There are some clean vocals thrown in as well, which feel a bit unpolished, but fit in well with the overall atmosphere of the album.
Örmagna’s debut release is an ambitious effort that provides an interesting parallel to the already established flora of Reykjavík black metal in its own bent and broken way. “We plan on going abroad in the near future and playing some new material we‘ve been working on,” Ö says. “And maybe sobering up a bit for the next album.“
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