Andkristnihátíð, the Anti-Christian Festival, has been celebrated annually since the dawn of the century. Originally as an act of heathen protest against the concurrent 1,000 years of Christianity celebrations at Þingvellir, it has evolved into a celebration of black metal in all of its forms. Friday’s roster featured four local and one US acts.
Unlike the vast majority of live concerts in Reykjavík, this one started at the time advertised. As people slowly started trickling in, the room began smelling more of manly musk and worn leather. Mannveira played their layered black metal with plenty of discordant guitar twangs that then melded into harmonies. Their final song Óður til einskis (“Ode To Nothing”) was their strongest, steadily gathering steam through muddled and sludgy sounds and plenty of delay pedal effects. It didn’t quite reach the climax I was hoping for, but remained enjoyable throughout.
The one-man outfit Aureole was next on stage, where he performed delicate fret work and frenzied strumming on his guitar, with bass, drums and vocals on playback, all at a comfortable volume. While I suspect that his atmospheric black metal may well suit the kvlt inner circle, the casual fans present quickly lost interest in his minimal stage presence and started chatting amongst themselves.
The crowd was silenced when Auðn started their bleak and desolate set. They exhibited exemplary tempo, transitioning fluidly from calm and collected segments to frantic explosions of energy. Each song had its own distinct identity, yet they all belonged to a cohesive soundscape. I wish more black metal bands had so much control of their own music, and soundchecked so religiously.
For some black metal bands, focusing on technical instrumentals is of such importance that a fully-fledged concept can gets left behind, and that was unfortunately the case with Abominor. Their environmental sound was good, but there was no sense of progression. It’s sort of what the Lord of the Rings trilogy would have been without Sauron and the One Ring—colourful and laden with a rich mythology, sure, but lacking a sense of conflict, and thus excitement. Abominor clearly know how to play instruments, but the results of their efforts left a lot to be desired.
The moment Misþyrming’s instrumental “Stjörnuþoka” started playing softly over the PA as the band made prepared to take the stage, the air filled with palpable anticipation, and the audience started gathering around the stage. When they started playing, they mercilessly went full throttle, hitting the crowd as violently as a buckshot to the chest – in an instant demonstrating why they are a force to be reckoned with, and why they’re in the midst of propelling Icelandic black metal onto the world stage. They played so hard that after the second song, one of the cymbals was forcibly dislodged from the drum kit. When they got to Söngur uppljómunar (“Song Of Enlightenment”), the crowd absolutely lost their shit.
The crowd was thicker than with the other bands, and more fanatical, too—I saw two drunk fellows get intimidated by devotees away from the stage for trying to maintain a conversation instead of listening. And then, 45 minutes later, they finish their set and unceremoniously leave the stage, not even alluding to the possibility of an encore.
The black metal community has put on its final show of the year. I, for one, cannot wait to see what it will do in 2016.
Read our FRESH NEW interview with Misþyrming’s DG to learn all about the band’s plans for 2016, as well as his thoughts on the less blackened forms of Icelandic music.