From Iceland — Airwaves Dark Days: Five Rock And Metal Picks

Airwaves Dark Days: Five Rock And Metal Picks

Published September 23, 2015

Hannah Jane Cohen
Photo by
Johanna Persson

Ah…Airwaves. That genre-less extravaganza of creativity and imagination. A time where indie-pop-ers and darkwave ambient-ers and rappers all get together, joining hands, to celebrate the magic of music. 

Well, that’s the goal right? And while program is ripe with unique acts that I wouldn’t be caught dead missing, like GKR and Milkywhale, sometimes we just want to stand, cross our arms, and nod our heads with a severe expression.

Yup, it’s time to talk about metal and rock. We know you’re missing Eistnaflug, and while there aren’t an abundance of metal acts playing at Airwaves 2015, here’s some shows that will keep you starkly aware of your own insignificance and mortality. 



Svartidauði roughly translates to ‘black death’, but don’t worry, the only thing you might catch from them is a love for tremolo riffs. They really are menacing, with a warped dissonant and complicated sound that shows an intricate yet nuanced knowledge of—and appreciation for—the traditional ‘mechanics’ of black metal. But these guys are anything but another reiteration of Mayhem or Deathspell Omega, trust me. ‘Flesh Cathedral’, their debut album, suffocates. It’s overwhelming and fearful, washing over you like the Angel of Death during Moses’ plagues. So put some lamb’s blood on your front door (or face), ’cause Svartidauði’s chaos is not understated. If you want to introduce a newbie to black metal, take them to this show. This band is truly (trvly?) exemplary.

Unfortunately, I’ve never seen them live, so I can’t comment on their aesthetics and showmanship, but if it’s anything like their photoshoots, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. Make sure to bring some tissues and another pair of pants—you might get a little scared.

Agent Fresco

Yeah, that’s right, I’m following up Svartidauði with Agent Fresco. (That’s a collaboration I would genuinely pay to see…) We can’t be dark all the time, and Agent Fresco is one of those bands that you can’t not smile too. With a sound that’s almost cinematically emotional, they are still anything but alienating. It’s friendly music—the perfect band for your friends who say they, “don’t listen to rock music”. I can’t say enough good things about singer Arnór Dan’s voice. It’s velvety, buttery, soothing—you want him to sing you to sleep, or at least play at your wedding. It’s rare to find genuinely dance-y rock music, but these guys are absolutely the exception.

New to Fresco? Download their new single, “Wait For Me”, for free here. If you like that, buy their new album ‘Destrier’ and be sure to check out the tracks “Howls” and “See Hell”. Those are my favs!

Still not sold? Check out their drummer’s hair. C’mon.


Well after that dalliance in the radio-rock arena, let’s get back to business. In the world of Icelandic black metal, Sinmara (formerly Chao) is a treat. Their debut album ‘Aphotic Womb’ is fucking grandiose. It’s just big, filling you up with interwoven contrasting riffs that will make even your small dark bedroom—we know you’re listening to it there—feel expansive. Not to be cheesy, but there’s a melodic gothic touch to Sinmara that makes their chaos feel genuinely dark and evil. While I’m sure the band would just cringe reading that description, I’m not saying that they’re fucking Wolfheart-era Moonspell or some shit (I will so regret writing this). No, I’m saying there’s a beauty to their black metal that’s unusual and overwhelming. Willfully dark and obsessively complicated, Sinmara is not casual listening. Sit down, shut up, and their sound will transcend you.

To be honest, I don’t think I “got” Sinmara until I saw them live at Eistnaflug this year. Their performance blew me away. So leave Mom at home for this one, ’cause these guys will genuinely fucking frighten the hell out of you. (Or rather, frighten hell into you?) Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

The Vintage Caravan

After getting all atheistically nihilist from those black metal shows, you gotta lighten up, right? Well there’s nothing like The Vintage Caravan to get you grinning again.

The Vintage Caravan is really the only band doing what they are doing. Known for their 70s groove, they’ve got—bear with me—game. I don’t know if it’s the confidence of their sound, but they are like that ageing backpacker guy in the corner of your hostel bar in Thailand who is dancing like he just doesn’t give a fuck. While that’s a bizarre analogy, I hope you understand what I mean. The Vintage Caravan has this relaxed, uh, sexiness to their songs, like Def Leppard or something. Were I working at Coyote Ugly, I’d put these guys on the playlist.

Pro tip: take some shrooms to rediscover the love of life and belief in God that Svartidaudi and Sinmara forced out of you—this is the band to do it to.



Misþyrming were my top pick for Eistnaflug and I couldn’t help but add ’em here too.  I’m struggling to write because I don’t know what more I can say about this group. They are just really fucking good. Trust me.

Even if you don’t like black metal—and I know most people don’t—Misþyrming puts on an amazing live show. Onstage, they are so intense and focused that anyone who appreciates true showmanship and wants to be frightened will be captivated. At Eistnaflug, their frontman violently threw an LP into the audience. At Norðanpaunk, their aggressiveness actually freaked me out a little bit. The group’s last performance was at Bergen’s Beyond the Gates festival, where they covered Funeral Mist’s “The God Supreme” joined onstage by Arioch himself (the Funeral Mist guy). If you don’t know anything about black metal, trust me, this is a big deal as he’s never before played it live. Shit!

So check the Funeral Mist footage out below and be sure to catch them at Airwaves.

So there you go, all the advice you need to turn your Airwaves into some dark days. If you aren’t too turned off by that awful rhyme—and you probably are—be sure to say hey if you see me in the crowd. Oh! And make sure you do some neck stretches before each show—getting hurt while head-banging is just embarrassing.

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