HAM. This band is legendary in Iceland. They started in the late 80's and quite after a couple of albums in the 90's. just as they quit they participated in songwriting and acting in what is now legendary movie in Iceland, called Sodoma Reykjavik. They didn't reunite until Rammstein came to Iceland to play 2001. During their downtime their reputation grew, and grew and grew. The best way to describe their music is possibly as Classic Heavy Metal with dash of Blackness. They had two singers the ruff and gruff Ottarr(Who is now a city councillor in Reykjavik) and the mighty majestic bassy Sigurjón, these two guys wrote most if not all of the music, acting as sort of an Icelandic Lennon/McCartney couple. As far as I can see they recorded two albums that were never released, one live album and one studio cut off album. Until they reunited of course. Since 2001 they've released a live album and one studio album. The studio album was called 'Svik, Harmur og Dauði'(Betrayal, Harm and Death). And what an album it is. Already a classic. It is just so, so very very good, and rocky, and expansive... and... and... well I don't know any more words that fit the album.
XIII has been my favourite Icelandic band. Ever. Since my friend played me a track called Nowhere, from their phenomenal record Serpentyne. What most people in the world call Six Degrees of Seperation in Iceland we call it Throw the Stone Next Door and We'll Know him. The main guy, and for some time the only guy, Hallur Ingólfson used to drum for HAM for some time, but then decided to branch out with his own project along with composing music for the National Theater and various movies in Iceland. The first album Salt, was very Gothic, akin to Type O Negative, just not as tongue in cheek. From there they played slightly more rocky, Soundgarden-y even in Serpentyne, with it's Grade A artistic case and booklet. Both of these albums are fairly simple, with no overtly progressive sounds or anything like that. Then Hallur decided to go all NIN-industrial on us and out came Magnifico Nova. An album I love, for all it's faults and quibbles. Hallur Ingólfsson went around construction sites and suchlike in Reykjavik recording the sounds that he came across there and incorporated them brilliantly into the album, with songs like Wishbone, Daisy Chain and Miracle Sun being the perfect examples. He even attempts the high notes on Wishbone, and wrote one of my favourite love songs in the form of Amorica. Briefly the band name was changed to Th1rte3n, thankfully that only lasted this one album, because the publishing company XIIIbis wanted to make them more sellable. Then it all went quiet. So very very quiet....
...Then all of the sudden I heard rumblings of a reunion, just to play in Eistnaflug. Even an album. Which came... sort of... in the form of a Best Of... plus an EP, called Black Box. Seems like Hallur has become all grown up, and decided to play all out Rock Songs. There's even a recreation of Wishbone with out the industrial bits.
Now every country needs their own version of Isis and Neurosis. The Icelandic version is Momentum. This band came as a very very pleasant surprise, as they started of as a rather bland, generic Black Metal band(like Solstafir come to think of it), working into a Progressive Metal Band(like Solstafir, though to be fair any band that works for a long time in the Black Metal field will eventually turn progressive... unless your Mayhem) and into this Post Metal(Unlike Solstafir, saved by the bell). On their album Fixation, at Rest they made this rich textured post metal a la Isis, Neurosis and Cult of Luna. What really does set Momentum apart from other Post Metal bands, besides sounding very original is their use of three singers... sometimes five. And the drummer, sounds like an octopus on LSD. There's this wall of sound with the heavy use of downtuned guitars, with a dark underbelly of the rhythm section. Red Silence is a perfect example of this. If there is such thing as the perfect soundtrack for a beached whale exploding, then Momentum have written it.
So there we have it, a very small dissection of the Icelandic Music Scene. There are more, and I will write about them next time.
It's not that I dislike Solstafir particularly, it's just that I've never really got into them except for their track Love is The Devil.