For the last two years, Iceland has been cursed with a deluge of heavy albums and EP’s, bursting upon us like rats pouring out of Nosferatu’s crypt. With various projects including Äkth Gánahëth, Níðstöng, Fimbulþul, Spectral Full Moon, Úlfhéðinn and others, the appearance of the mysterious Adrian Brachmann on the scene of Icelandic Black Metal was sudden and prodigious.
It is not often that a musician emerges ex nihilo with so many ideas. His corpus to date represents something of an omnibus of contemporary extreme music, dabbling in dark ambient, black metal, hardcore punk and noise. Clearly, Adrian is not a man who spent his lock-down watching Netflix.
“Currently, I have four main projects going,” Adrian says, as if it were the most natural thing in the world. “Two of them are black metal projects and two are what one would call dark ambient or dungeon synth. While they all have a common source of influences, I definitely see them as completely different ideas.”
Adrian is something of a black metal traditionalist, citing bands like Darkthrone, Ildjarn and Celtic Frost as important influences. But his traditionalism is by no means small-mindedness and he fervently listens to everything from hardcore bands like Integrity and G.I.S.M. to Berlin-school ambient and neofolk. “Outside influences can lead to great results from time to time,” he admits. But with regard to his own creative projects, he generally stays trve to metal.
Of course, not all of us hoard rare Norwegian demo tapes. So for readers unacquainted with these niche subgenres—what does Adrian’s music actually sound like? “Raw, cold and primitive,” is the terse response.
What is Icelandic black metal?
Like so many artists, Adrian draws inspiration from the landscape and nature of Iceland. That said—he’s originally from Germany and only moved here some years ago.
“I’d consider my music Icelandic insofar as Iceland has been the environment that surrounded me when I wrote and recorded it,” Adrian states. “Iceland itself has had tremendous influence on how the music turned out in the end.”
Icelandic black metal has developed a very distinct sound in the last years, but the sounds of Äkth Gánahëth and Níðstöng represent a departure from the more dissonant, anxious sound of household favourites Misþyrming and Svartidauði. In contrast, both Äkth Gánahëth and Níðstöng are more energetic, punky, affirmative and, dare one say, fun?
“Musically I don’t see myself anywhere near any of the bands on this island, although I respect them a lot,” Adrian confesses. “My influences come from a different part of black metal.”
Adrian was raised on a steady diet of extreme metal and hardcore from the tender age of 15, citing the “relentless raw energy and untamed display of negative emotion” as what drew him into the scene. “Every walk in the mountains or the forests is a black metal moment,” he explains. “Black metal is an echo of nature, in my books.”
Although Adrian’s previous band, Fourth Crusade, was a vegan metallic hardcore project—quite different sonically from his dungeon synth and ambient projects—there is, as Adrian explains, a spiritual continuity between these projects.
“I would always view music or art in general as a vessel of the artist’s spirit,” he says. “Hence, I always see a connection of music and some certain set of views or ideologies that are reflected in it. What I think and what I love or hate will always be a central influence on my music even if it’s not necessarily reflected in the lyrics.”
In times of plague
Of course, it’s impossible for an artist to not be affected in some way by COVID. For a solo artist, however, COVID also presented some opportunities for creative productivity.
“The consequences of the pandemic were the cradle of the music that I create these days. Without COVID and all the frustrations and anger that it has caused me I’d likely never have recorded these songs,” Adrian says.
Recording solo allows for great freedom and while many of us were wasting away in quarantine, Adrian was furiously producing material.
“People started to vent through music and art so I think this pandemic pushed the creativity in many individuals all over the globe and helped them to create art from honest feelings,” he concludes. “As of now, I can’t really tell what will happen after this. But I don’t really see it all ending anytime soon.”
So have we seen the end of Adrian’s curse? The omens say otherwise.
Listen to Adrian’s work at https://nidstong.bandcamp.com/, https://akthganaheth.bandcamp and https://spectralfullmoon.bandcamp.com/
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