In the world of Icelandic music, Músiktilraunir, Iceland’s ‘Battle of the Bands’ competition, is a veritable kingmaker. Running for over 30 years, it’s helped kickstart bands like Mammút, Vök, and Of Monsters and Men. This year, the winner was metal band Blóðmör (Blood Pudding, in English), while Konfekt came second, and singer/songwriter Ásta Kristín Pjetursdóttir third. All three bands recently played at Secret Solstice and will play at Airwaves this November.
Since the competition finale in April, Blóðmör have remained hard at work. “We’ve been performing almost every week,” the band tells me after a soundcheck at Iðnó. They’ve also released an EP called ‘Líkþorn’—a moody assortment of tracks straddling the line between rock and metal. Have just one listen and you’ll understand why the band won the prize for Best Guitarist at Músiktilraunir. “It’s had a great response,” says guitarist and vocalist Haukur Þór Valdimarsson of the EP. “We recorded it before we won Músiktilraunir, but we’ve just released it now, so it’s been very good timing for us.
But despite their victory in Musiktilraunir, they hope to continue recording, taking advantage of the time they won at Sundlaugin studio. Their success belies the youth of the band. “We only came together in 2016,” Haukur explains. “Though Matthías Stefánsson, our bassist and vocalist, and I had already played in a band before we joined with Ísak Þorsteinsson, our drummer.”
Of course, one must ask about the name. “My mother came up with it,” Haukur laughs. “But I don’t think any of us actually like blóðmör. It’s edible—but we wouldn’t choose to eat it.”
One step at a time
Second place winners and indie kids Konfekt have also been keeping busy since their Músiktilraunir success. “We’ve been recording a lot,” explains drummer Eva Kolbrún Kolbeins. “We’re taking it one step at a time. We’ll start by releasing a single and see where it goes from there.”
The band, like Blóðmör, is relatively young, only coming together in 2018, but they have already developed a defined style, deftly switching between Icelandic and English in tracks that are both relaxed and tightly controlled. This is all the more impressive considering that Músiktilraunir was one of their first major musical events. In fact, when they came to sign up, they didn’t even have a fixed name.
Konfekt, though, suits the all-girl band well. “It means assorted chocolates,” says singer Anna Ingibjörg Þorgeirsdóttir. “And we thought that it resembled our range of songs—some you might like, some you might not—but they’re all different.”
Ásta Kristín Pjetursdóttir, who won third place, cuts a rather different figure. Arguably better known as one of Iceland’s foremost classical violinists, Ásta only began writing her own songs recently, describing how she began writing poetry which then fed into her songwriting. While she wasn’t playing at Iðnó, she will surely be one to look out for at Airwaves, especially for her award-winning Icelandic lyrics. Her songs are captivatingly sparse, utilising only a guitar and her ethereal voice, but it’s powerfully effective.
Could any of these acts achieve the successes of Mammút and Of Monsters and Men? It’s a bold proposition, but when you hear the skill of these three new contenders, and look at their achievements thus far, there’s more than a little reason to be hopeful.
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