Monday, August 19, 2013

Sigur Rós: Kveikur (2013)

Maybe I’m Going Soft

Patrick, longtime reader and erstwhile reviewer for this blog, recently commented on his shock that I would praise something as hipster-sounding as True Widow so highly. This might be a step further. I’m not going to give Sigur Rós quite such a stellar review, but they may be the most hipster-ish thing I’ve ever liked.

I’ve been vaguely aware of the Icelandic post-rock band for a while now, and what I had read about them intrigued me. So I looked them up, and saw the video for “Brennisteinn.” That was pretty damn awesome. They use strings and cinematic songwriting like a lot of metal bands who, to be fair, were probably influenced by Sigur Rós. And whatever they’re doing to make that bass-y sound like a giant alien robot in some apocalyptic movie, I could do with more of that.

Almost all of you are probably already familiar with the band, so I won’t go into a lot of detail about how they use a lot of different instruments like piano, bells, and brass to create a lush, nuanced soundscape. What impresses me is the way they can make music that’s both cinematic and poppy at the same time. When they do that, and throw in that heavy bass sound (“Brennisteinn,” “Stormur,” and “Kveikur”) it is incredible.

There are other parts that aren’t so good. The high, breathy vocals only work for me when the song is appropriately dark and has that bottom end. When it gets into something like “Isjaki” they almost lose me. If they had strung that and the similarly light Indie rock of “Rafstraumur” back-to-back, I would have stopped the record in disgust. But they didn’t do that, so those songs seem to add to the dynamism instead of making me hate it.

Then the instrumental outro “Var” reveals something about how they accomplished this. At its beginning, the piano parts sound a lot like Danzig’s Black Aria stuff: dark, dramatic, subtle. Then it gets a lot bigger and broader, and it’s not so dark at the end. That’s intriguing to me. To unravel it, maybe, or maybe because I liked it so much more than I expected, I listened to this twice one day; I almost never listen to the same record twice in a day.

The Verdict: 4 out of 5 stars


  1. OK, I have to add something to this. I'm now listening to more of this band on Youtube, and apparently I hate all of their old stuff. Who knew?

  2. let's not be too hasty. sigur ros had flashes of astonishing heaviness early on

    on a related note, i need to grab this.

  3. OK, that song is pretty cool. It's the ones that pop up as the most popular on Youtube that are all light and air without substance.

  4. Following your review I relistened to some of this and the self titled song could fit nicely on an experimental black metal album, say altar of plagues. Even the cover could work for an AoT record (I don't care for their 2013 cover but love their 2011 one). Here's the sigur ros song link: