06 Mar 2023 - Thorsten
Black Metal | Dark Descent Records | Release date: 17 Mar 2023 | Favorite song: An Elegy to a Paradise out of Reach
Iceland once again! Before we dive into a lament or an appraisal of the seemingly never-ending fountain of amazing artists from that tiny island in the North Atlantic, let‘s just say the following: Úlfúð do not disappoint – and not only in connection to being from Iceland but also within the confines of their music. Blackened Death Metal or Death-infused Black Metal. Whichever you prefer, you will probably like Úlfúð and their full-length debut Of Existential Distortion.
Úlfúð are not really a productive band, as the band was founded in Reykjavik in early 2015, self-released their only record up to now, 2018’s First Sermon EP, recorded the new full-length in 2020 and release it now, via Dark Descent Records. So, eight years as a band, and the quintet has committed to releasing 12 songs – four in 2018 and eight now on Of Existential Distortion. Doesn’t sound like much, ay? But the songs sound much bigger and much more epic.
The foundation of these songs is a really well-balanced mix of Black and Death metal tempi and riffs, a lot of the tracks play with the dynamics of both genres in overflowing fashion. We could talk about any song in particular here, but let’s look at three of them closely: ”Faceless”, “An Elegy to a Paradise out of Reach” & “Leviathan Dreams”.
”Faceless” exemplifies the heavy guitar work of Birkir Kárason and Eysteinn Orri Sigurðsson who duel it out on this track and intertwine their lines blissfully. The beginning of the track is really heavy and mindboggling, mixing a stormy background with strong leads above, but they are also able to calm it down a bit, as the middle passage shows, where both take a step back and produce something close to Atmospheric Black Metal. That passage doesn’t last too long though and they blast-riff their way up any Icelandic volcano you could think of! The little epic twists and changes in tonality and sound at the end only make the track even more impressive – and this specific skillset is shown pretty often on this record, also listen to the nearly classic Metal solo in ”Mockery Theatre”!
”An Elegy to a Paradise Out of Reach” is not only a hell of a programmatic title but also the longest track on here. Although one might expect the structure of the song to be exactly what it is – slow atmospheric build-up, paired with a lot of mid-tempo drumming underneath a tumultuous tornado above, supported by strong vocals, some serenading solo and then a descend into calmer seas – all of this is not unusual in this genre, but Úlfúð really excel at the execution of this song. The turn at roughly 2,5 minutes is perfectly timed and gives the band another opportunity to showcase the skills of drummer Sigurður Jakobsson, who gives this track so many licks and fills while also shifting the pace every so often. One must envision him to an Icelandic version of that Indian god with multiple arms.
”Leviathan Dreams” is the final track on the record and its reference to Thomas Hobbes and his 17th century book immediately caught my eye. Furthermore, the final track of a record is always an important one, because it’s the one which must catch your attention so much again that you want to hit the Repeat-button rather sooner than later. ”Leviathan Dreams” is able to make me do so, by being a tiny bit more chaotic and dissonant than the other songs, thence this slow walk down a windswept, open tower-staircase of a song (including many blast-beat hits nearly offsetting my steps) is a really great outro.
This mix of Death Metal pace, Black Metal riffing, classic solo and powerful vocals really makes for a mighty listening session on repeat well-spent. Iceland, again. How?