From Iceland — Airwaves Day One: Let’s Burn Down Reykjavík!

Airwaves Day One: Let’s Burn Down Reykjavík!

Published November 5, 2015

Gabríel Benjamin
Photo by
Florian Trykowski

The first day of Airwaves has come and gone, and it was a blast. Caterpillarmen started the official festival, playing to a sober crowd of 40 people (with only a single open beer can in sight), but they still had fun with it. They jumped all over the stage, playing their upbeat prog-rock, shaking the old and wooden Iðnó building with each beat of the bass drum.

Skelkur í Bringu similarly played the hand they were dealt, but showed how much they had grown since their formation. They started as a punk band with loads of strangeness—now they’re that, and they’ve also gotten good at playing their instruments! Since shifting from a four-piece to a three-piece outfit, they’ve become considerably tighter.

Muck at Airwaves 2015 by Erik Luyten
Photo by Erik Luyten

Then Muck played their first gig in months, and they threw everything and the kitchen sink at the crowd. Fast guitar riffs, even faster drums, explosive stage presence, and loud rock! So loud, in fact, that when electronic artist Arnljótur entered Gaukurinn, he did so covering his ears. Oh, and they managed to get the festival’s first mosh pit going.

Börn similarly delivered an intense show. The band was visibly tired, having played two other shows that day, but they put whatever was left in their gas tank into the performance, furiously shredding and beating their instruments as singer Alexandra howled hard femme lyrics that deal with issues of autonomy and body politics. They then ended their set with the passionate “Sviðin Jörð”, shouting “Let’s light Reykjavík on fire, and dance on the ashen remains of the patriarchy.”

Photos by Florian Trykowski

The best show of the evening, however, was clearly Misþyrming’s set at Gaukurinn. These four young men herald a new age of Icelandic black metal, one that is poignant without being cliché, contemplative without being stale, serious without being pretentious, and most importantly, heavy without being inaccessible. Each and every chord played feels deliberate and thought out—even in performing their album ‘Söngvar elds og óreiðu‘ pretty much backwards, the show has a sense of purpose and direction, with a clear beginning, middle and end.

[bandcamp width=100% height=120 album=2158092846 size=large bgcol=ffffff linkcol=0687f5 tracklist=false artwork=small]

The crowd was composed of the usual tall, masculine and musky metalheads, but also a great number of women, and musicians from other genres. I spotted Loji from Sudden Weather Change, Jófríður from Samaris, and numerous members from Skelkur í Bringu, Muck, and other bands in attendance, and those I spoke to were absolutely blown away.

I have nothing but admiration and high hopes for Misþyrming, and they’ve raised the bar for the fledgling Icelandic black metal scene. Having said that, this was by far the best set I’ve seen from them.


Photos by Rúnar Sigurður Sigurjónsson

Other highlights included seeing Æla at Gamla Bíó, where they played their usual high octane rock show, but with even more glitter, evocative video works, and a naked guy running around the stage wearing a horse-head mask. Then seeing celebrated concert venue NASA back up and running was also a real treat, although queuing up for it was a real downer. It has hosted numerous immortal shows in the past, and I can’t wait to see even more in the future.

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