In terms of proper releases, there wasn’t a lot to dip your toes in. Sure, it was hard (in a good way) to keep up with bands premiering demo tracks or studio recordings intended for future releases, because there were so many of them being posted on-line all the time. But very few bands offered anything tangible and a good portion of them seem to be flukes or projects that hardly play live at all.
Naturally, I've probably forgot to mention some "releases" so obscure only the local message board warriors heard about them. Bastard released Dementia and Filth, which you can now obtain a copy of at their shows. You can also download it at Gogoyoko. Claim to fame: funny song titles.
Carpe Noctem is a really good modernised (but not sterilized) Black Metal band that, like any other Icelandic BM band, doesn’t play out much. They released a self-titled CD, without bothering to include information on their MySpace as to how and where to get the damn thing. Of course. Claim to fame: a member of the band used to play in Thunder Lesbians. Naturally.
Legendary Death Metal band Sororicide reformed for a couple of shows and even released an EP, Deathless, that collects three songs from the old days that are hard to find. Thus, it wasn’t a bad idea at all. Let’s hope they write new material, because these guys (some of whom may now be found in pompous indie pop bands) out-shredded the mighty Entombed a few months ago, during the latter’s second trip to Iceland, which was not such a triumphant one.
Gordon Riot released the uneventful yet nicely executed Dirt 'n' Worms. It’s been getting nice reviews, so check it out. I was never too keen on the young people‘s Kerrang! in them but they seem to be moving away from it, and that‘s a good thing.
The now dysfunctional Munnríður barfed out the hard-birth Ásdís Rán EP, named after the Playboy hopeful model. She didn‘t like the honours. The release didn‘t impress her, nor did it me.
Retrön’s Fantasy Metal meets computer game soundtracks meets Fucking Champs won over a healthy number of people this year. Their CD Swordplay And Guitarslay is attention worthy. An ambiguous effort, musically and visually, to say the least.
Wormlust became the talk of the über-underground town with the release of demo and a split with Ireland's Haud Mundus. An impressive Black Metal project with twisted ambience securing it in the modern yet mysterious and dark spectrum.
Myra's album never saw the light of day. As good as it’ll be I suspect the members of the band just imagined their trip to the studio. Three greats, Beneath (who played Wacken, mind you), Gone Postal and Severed Crotch are all working on new material. Same can be said about the never-will-die Changer. Good stuff expected from each one. Atrum's Opus Victum EP is still being worked on even though recordings started long time ago. The demos sound rad.
This years Cinderella story is Sólstafir. A band that's been like a Jumbo Jet in turbulence year after year has finally arrived. If you thought Masterpiece Of Bitterness got good reviews, they pale in comparison to the praise Köld is getting. Not only that. Sólstafir is reaching heights no Icelandic metal band has done on international level.
The 2009 edition of annual boozefest Eistnaflug (Flight of the Testicles) on the East Coast of Iceland boasted the biggest crowd yet; an amazing feat for a solid event that by now is legend. Too bad people support the booze industry with more heart than the bands themselves. Oh well.
All in all, ‘09 was a good year for Icelandic metal. Even though these online promos and snippets leave a lot to be desired, the material holds a lot of promise. And the metalheads upped the ante in regards to show quality. Their events were better booked, promoted and organized than ever before.
The punk/hardcore seen saw a fair bit of noteworthy releases but none as good as Death Metal Supersquad's Dead Zeppelin. So simple, gut wrenching, raw and catchy. Just get it. The label releasing it, Paradísarborgar Plötur was involved with majority of 2009’s releases, house shows, etc. Releases included Eðli annarra demo (noisy, dirty and aggressive), Dys’ Andspyrna (important hxc driven metallic punk with socially aware, do-good rallying anthems), Tentacles of Doom's Dansað við lík (80s post punk inspired, like a cross between The Wipers and X but more lose and chaotic). Fuck. They are selling it cheap, so buy this batch before they are out of print forever.
Two young bands took the cake as the most active ones. The very young Logn impressed people with their savage and grinding fury, backed by intricate drumming. Not only that. Barely had the band been formed when they had a split out with Manslaughter (not so impressive, but fun), dozens of shows under their belts, two t-shirts... Quite impressive. They are already working on new recordings.
The second young-ish band is Muck, though their climb has been a gradual one. Their first release, Vultures, showed the boys effortlessly scoring a soundtrack for angst and misery, albeit not the tightest one ever. The subsequent demo sees them improve in all areas. The future looks bright for one of Iceland’s best up 'n' coming bands.
Celestine threatened to release something, demos were made that shows the band at its most raging while retaining the rough and organic heaviness of their last outing. Raw and unruly enough for the hardcore crowd, yet heavy and tight enough for the metalheads, the band‘s future looks interesting.
Gavin Portland‘s heavily delayed Hand In Hand With Traitors, Back To Back With Whores still hasn’t seen the light of day. I hear the no-show of this impressive collection of songs, recorded by Kurt Ballou (Converge) in his God City studio, is largely due to the bands independent stance and stubbornness. Or so I’ve heard.
Hark came out of nowhere with a stellar demo of noisy and nasty Metalcore of the mid 90s best calibre. Find my review in a GV back issue for a more thorough inspection.
Bummer is another new band that released the super obscure Noise demo. A punk band in its own right, but mind the shoegaze influences and not so subtle Joy Division and Beat Happening ones, aided with a very lonely and winter-y feel. It’s pretty special.
Akureyri's Buxnaskjónar kept impressing me with the Þriðja heimstyrjöldin home recordings. It’s a reassuring feeling to have our very own sarcastic and tongue in check punk pricks band that doesn’t sound million miles away from early to mid period Against Me! or the Ergs.
And the chameleon in this year’s bunch must be the new and eclectic full length from Morðingjarnir, Flóttinn mikli. I’m still digesting this collection of songs, which is all over the place. Finally the band is getting the respect they deserve and crossing over to the mainstream, if such a thing is imaginable on this island. Even though I’ve yet to make a verdict on this record, it deserves the talk it’s getting. Everybody seems to know about it. Which is an amazing feat in and of itself.
A few bands were left out of this article, as I tried to focus mainly on bands that released something and were prolific in their own way. Rest assured, there were other acts that shined.
Feel free to peep my blog, www.halifaxcollect.blogspot.com, for a bunch of the ‘09 bands that were busy in the on-line listening party department. Birkir Fjalar Viðarsson is one of Grapevine’s fine music critics. He also pounds.
The year in Metal? In order to kick the ol’ brain cell bundle into gear I got in touch with my friend to compare notes. He assured me that nothing noteworthy had happened beyond the Sororicide reunion and Sólstafir releasing their best work to date. In Hardcore, a handful of bands were formed, a plethora of shows were played to often-unenthusiastic crowds, and various releases came out shrouded in “secrecy” thus never really seeing the light of day. As in: they were released but pretty much only those "in the know" knew about them or knew where to find ‘em. Indubitably quite common in the metal seen as well.