It was not early in the day but early enough that I managed to beat most of the traffic on this Friday. Verslunarmannahelgin is one of Iceland’s busiest travel weekends so if you travel out of Reykjavík during the busiest hours prepare to be stuck in traffic like tuna in a can.
Being the old bastard that I am I decided to not bring a tent and just rough it in my car so before I left town I had already prepared my sleeping arrangement and didn’t have to worry about it when I arrived. That turned out to be a good idea because, as can happen, the journey took a bit more time than I expected and when I arrived Hekla had just opened the festival.
Hekla is a solo project which, according to it’s Facebook page, plays minimal Sci-Fi. Yeah, it is very stripped down, just one girl, her theremin and a couple of effect pedals that create a very dark and somber atmosphere. Very effective when cloaked in darkness, I can imagine, but right there and then… Not so much. At least not for me. All the commotion, people going in and out of the venue and so on made it difficult for me to focus on Hekla.
Kvelja was just about to start their set out in the hallway when Hekla had finished her’s so it was logical to see how that arrangement worked. A lot of people crammed into a very small space under heavy sludge music that rocked them from one wall to the other. This really started the weekend.
In the sea of hype that has surrounded Icelandic black metal the last few years Vonlaus step in like a breath of fresh air, with no Facebook page but a shitload of sweatbands they threw at the audience as the gig progressed. Everything about this band seems to be done ironically, yet with integrity, with the aim of belittling that which is the flavor of the day right now. I like it.
Grafir was the next band on my menu this evening and perhaps the band that I was looking forward to seeing the most that evening. Not playing favorites but their mixture of post-punk and black metal… I mean, you just gotta love it. Nothing else to be said really. If you haven’t already checked ’em out by all means do so now! “Vinur, þú skelfur” might be the best song to come from the Icelandic black metal scene since Sólstafir’s “Í helli Loka“!
Next on the menu this evening was the post-punk of Börn which was followed by the black metal of Mannveira and the powerviolence of Dead Herring.
Börn’s music is so minimalist I was sure that it would sound out of place on the main stage but I was proven wrong. They delivered a very good set, and although the music itself might not be the most violent the lyrics stab you right in the balls.
Mannveira. Another Icelandic black metal band you want to say you remember but really can’t put your finger on from where. Yeah, don’t worry, you ain’t the only one. People tend to focus on the holy trinity of Svartidauði, Sinmara and Misþyrming and forget about all the other quality bands we have here.
Mannveira delivered a really good set which, even though it was pretty intense, just seemed so easy going, and that probably had very much to do with Jón Arnar’s laid back drumming style.
Now, if we want to talk about the most intense act this evening then we have to talk about Dead Herring. What we have here are insanely heavy guitars, drums that want to pound your fucking head in and vocals that want to clear out anything that might be left within it. No joke! And on the small stage so there was absolutely no room to even try to form an opinion! Absolutely fucking loved it!
So, let us start this piece by talking about how I began day number two. I began the day rather early by driving over to Hvammstangi, got myself something to eat and snapped some pics of interesting things there (see below), before heading back to Laugarbakki to see Last King of Poland.
I didn’t see Last King of Poland, I gave up after five to ten minutes of “perhaps it’s this plug”. Sorry, sometimes these things annoy me and that just happened there, as unprofessional as it was. I returned to the car and read Myrkfælni (an Icelandic magazine that focuses on underground culture) until it was time for Devine Defilement to get on stage.
Devine Defilement delivered a very good set. If I’m not mistaken this was the only purely death metal band on the bill and represented the genre really well. One of the strongest set I have seen from that band.
And now for something completely different… The Post-Performance Blues Band. Not a band. Not a blues band. Performance, yes. Three women doing exercises with a playback on screen behind them. For the most part it went well and the very small moments that could be called “flaws” did not affect my experience, but in fact enhanced it. Gave it a bit more authenticity, if you will, and showed that at Norðanpaunk there’s a place for (almost) everything.
Heift were next up. The line up there was Ingó from Severed, Aðalsteinn from Auðn and Matti and Kolbeinn from Lucy in Blue. It worked well at the small hallway stage and those twelve minutes of intense black metal flew by. You really lost yourself there.
Golden Core on the main stage. Two teens with a very fat sound. Very good, but sounds like they have yet to find their own style. Really good and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens in the future. Just don’t end up like The Boys!!!
I took a bit of a hiatus after that and only returned when Skoffín were playing. I found myself a chair to stand on and watched as people moshed to what I can only call the bastard child of Stuðmenn and íslenska krúttkynslóðin. It was glorious!
After Skoffín it was time for Morpholith to let their light shine. I will go as far to say that this is the strongest doom metal band Iceland has right now. Some might argue that this is the only doom metal band has right now, but don’t let such nonsense deter you from checking them out!
Nöll IQ!!! One of this year’s biggest surprises for me! Excellent Swedish fastcore that pretty much killed it at the hallway stage! Good music and excellent stage banter that created a good connection between band and crowd. That always goes a long way!
Nvll was next up. Icelandic black metal focused on almenn bugun if I remember correctly, dressed in white like patients at mental health clinics (aka insane asylums). Decent enough set with a good frontman!
I finished the day off with more Icelandic black metal, Naðra possessed the main stage just after midnight and delivered a really strong set. They even threw in a Hellhammer cover for good measure. Good shit.
Third and last installment coming next week!