From Iceland — Soundtrack To The Plague: Become Prisoner To Auðn’s Waking Dream

Soundtrack To The Plague: Become Prisoner To Auðn’s Waking Dream

Published November 30, 2020

Soundtrack To The Plague: Become Prisoner To Auðn’s Waking Dream
Hannah Jane Cohen
Photo by
Daria Endresen

The newest album by Auðn, ‘Vökudraumsins Fangi’ (‘Prisoner Of A Waking Dream’), ends on the line “Minning þess sem aldrei varð.” It means “Memory of what never existed.”

Eeriness encapsulated

“It’s open to interpretation, but it’s the memory of that which never was, of nostalgia to a past that may not have or possibly never actually happened,” guitarist Andri Björn Birgisson explains. We’re on a video call; the audio crackles in and out like the wireless itself knows of the eeriness of Andri’s words. “Being nostalgic for something that never was real,” he continues carefully.

“It’s the memory of that which never was, of nostalgia to a past that may not have or possibly never actually happened.”

“Oh, I thought you were talking about millennials who were nostalgic for the 90s even if they didn’t experience them,” vocalist Hjalti Sveinsson adds. They burst out laughing, the sort of technological dystonic beauty of the last moment immediately gone. Eeriness erased.

Andri, still grinning, doesn’t give in to Hjalti’s shenanigans. “Being nostalgic for something that not only they didn’t experience, but never actually happened,” he concludes, receiving a decisive nod from Hjalti in return. “Or yes, the goddamn millennials.”

It’s a typical exchange for the band. They’re probably one of the most fun to interview, playing off each other so much that you kind of want them to have a TV show along with an album. Perhaps that’s in the works—they’re full of surprises.

Auðn is genre-less

When I first covered Auðn back in 2016, they were the underdogs of the Icelandic black metal scene. Their style was different—more atmospheric than dissonant—and they didn’t hold true to the rigid “standards” of black metal, which made them uncommon. They were honest, funny, and not afraid to say what they really thought about things. Now, just four years later, they’re signed to Season of Mist, one of the biggest metal labels in the world, and have become one of the country’s most well-known acts. The underdog has become the leader.

Their newest release is a culmination of all this work. It’s no doubt their most sophisticated effort yet—a melange of black metal, death metal, atmospheric doom, with even a touch of rock’n roll at times. Basically a genre-less creation. My first impression when I sat in my room listening to it was that I had to turn the lights out. This was a despondent anthem for loneliness—the perfect soundtrack for plague-life.

The band credits this progression to many things. Maturity, increased confidence in their own ideas, more polished production, and a new lineup change with previous bassist Hjálmar Gylfason jumping to guitar and Matthías Hlífar Mogensen taking over for him.

“It sounds like I wanted it to sound,” guitarist Aðalsteinn Magnússon states. He’s just joined the call, sitting back on his couch holding his four-month-old baby. “When I got the mix back I felt ‘ok wow, this is basically perfect’. This is the Auðn that we want to continue.”


Auðn. Photo by Daria Endresen.

The end of the world

In fact, they’re filled with so much creativity they’ve essentially already written a new album, they reveal. All of them, they emphasise, have adapted very well to our new reality.

“If you’re depressed at home, what changes if you go to quarantine?” Andri says, laughing. “No, everyone’s trying to be so positive and hopeful—get rid of that. It’s not so bad. You get to stay at home and watch TV. I don’t think that’s the end of the world.”

“Yes, catch up on thinking,” Aðalsteinn interjects. “Enjoy the slow pace that the world is forced into. Take a deep breath.”

“And imagine if this happened in the 90s, you’d have to wait in line for the video store and then find out nothing was available,” Hjalti laughs, referencing his earlier statement. “I’d be first in there to rent all 20 copies of ‘Titanic’. I’d be that person.”

This causes the conversation—previously about the album—to completely devolve and morph into what ends up being a rather surprisingly divisive and long debate on the merits of James Cameron’s film, which really should be an article in itself. Hey—many other news outlets might have covered this album, but only one knows Aðalsteinn’s feeling on ‘Terminator 2’. Now that’s a scoop.

Auðn. Photo by Daria Endresen.

Stream ‘Vökudraumsins Fangi’ on all streaming platforms. Pick up the album in physical form (and merch!) at the Season of Mist shop

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