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!