Almyrkvi - Umbra review

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Band: Almyrkvi
Album: Umbra
Release date: November 2017

01. Vaporous Flame
02. Forlorn Astral Ruins
03. Severed Pillars Of Life
04. Stellar Wind Of The Dying Star
05. Cimmerian Flame
06. Fading Hearts Of Umbral Nebulas

Iceland. For a time there were several hints suggesting that this tiny Arctic island of fjords and volcanoes was about to host the next major black metal explosion. Now those hints seem closer to reality than to any sort of word of mouth whispers. The emergence of a powerful debut from Svartidauði in 2012 seemed to be the opening cry, a cry quickly answered by the likes of Carpe Noctem, Sinmara, Misþyrming, and others seemingly hell bent on getting the international community to sit up and take notice of the sonorous howls from the tundra. And indeed, notice it did. Yet for a time, some were skeptical. For a moment, there were those who pointed out that Iceland's resurgent black metal scene wasn't necessarily bad, but seemed a little too... derivative, in need of some extra oomph to give it more of a unique identity. Within the past 2 years, hopefully, patience has shown these naysayers that a handful of newer bands have been hungry give it just that. Bands such as Almyrkvi.

This one has definitely hit the ground running. Almyrkvi, brainchild of Garðar S. Jónsson, already entered the picture with last year's Pupil Of The Searing Maelstrom EP. At a brief yet highly enjoyable 26 minutes, about a year and half later Jónsson is ready to capitalize on the warm reception surrounding the EP with Umbra. Cold, hypnotic, and incredibly well layered, Umbra is essentially the "grown up" version of Almyrkvi's EP. Nothing here is really all that different from what listeners were treated to before, it's just simply better, as though all ingredients from the previous release were handled delicately with a pair of tweezers to help enhance and finesse them even more. The result definitely makes a powerful impact, whether it's in the hard hitting yet strangely catchy riffs from Jónsson (tell me the opening of "Forlorn Astral Ruins" isn't a total banger), the commendable switch off between equally formidable clean and harsh vocals, or just how well the music transitions from its denser, more aggressive edge into more relaxed, ethereal interludes ("Severed Pillars Of Life" is just a fantastic demonstration of this).

The most enjoyable aspect of Almyrkvi, both on the EP and here on Umbra, is the degree to which the music alludes to other bands while also maintaining a personality that is still very much its own. Given the quasi psychedelic aura of the music as well as the cosmic themes, the obvious similarity to draw here would be to Darkspace, a comparison not entirely unwarranted, but Almyrkvi also seems to have a much grittier, more smothering take to its production than the aforementioned band. This could be owed to a sort of grinding, mechanical aspect of the music that almost feels industrial, no doubt influenced at least in part by Blut Aus Nord, but once again, this similarity is far from outright imitation. Likewise, Umbra certainly carries the same sort of otherwordly, ritualistic aesthetic that has come to be associated with other contemporary Icelandic black metal bands, but it falls short of really sounding too much like any of them. There are many things going on here that suggest that Almyrkvi, while remaining true to the spirit of its encompassing scene, is going to differ significantly from what else is going on within it.

Although it cannot take sole responsibility for doing so, Umbra is ultimately an album that really helps in the process of continuing to bring the fledgling Icelandic black metal community into its maturation, moving it beyond its "good but not mindblowing" first phase and into profound, uncharted new territory. This may not be the craziest black metal release I've heard this year, but it's certainly got enough ballz to make waves both domestically and internationally for its relatively fresh take on the sound. Most importantly, one of the biggest indicators to me that a national scene has really "taken off" is when you start to go into albums of X genre from Y country already having some prior expectation of what they're going to end up sounding like. There's no denying that nowadays when black metal fans hear that a band is from Iceland before listening to one of their releases, they probably have a good idea of "it's going to sound like ____" before they hit that play button. While not alone, Almyrkvi is certainly to thank for that.

Check out "Vaporous Flame" as you wait to cross the event horizon.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 9
Songwriting: 9
Originality: 8
Production: 9


Written on 01.11.2017 by Comforting the disturbed and disturbing the comfortable since 2013.


Comments: 3   Visited by: 215 users
01.11.2017 - 13:42
Excited for this one!
01.11.2017 - 14:28
Bad English
Nice work nice band seems few good BM and not only BM is coming from there in last few years
Life is to short for LOVE, there is many great things to do online !!!

Stormtroopers of Death - ''Speak English or Die''

I better die, because I never will learn speek english, so I choose dieing
01.11.2017 - 17:33
Written by VIG on 01.11.2017 at 13:42

Excited for this one!

Few more spins could make this a late AOTY in my book. Just straight up excellent material
This is the water, and this is the well
Drink full and descend
The horse is the white of the eyes, and dark within

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