Review Summary: The young Icelandic composer turns out a more than solid debut. A must-hear for post-rock and classical fans alike.
Classical music has, for centuries, been considered among the utmost elitists as the purest form of music and art. The problem is, unless chosen as life’s passion, our exposure to the genre and artists in it are rather poor. Those chosen few who do devote their lives to the study and performance to this music tend to be, more often than not, rather harsh in their criticism. Modern day neo-classical artists are stuck with the issue of finding an audience and establishing their name among some of the most revered names in all of music. One poor release or performance could forever scar their reputation and end their career. Sounds pretty daunting, right?
Enter 21-year old Ólafur Arnalds, a young, Icelandic composer, perhaps best known for his work on intros and outros on multiple releases for the American metalcore band Heaven Shall Burn. Ólafur’s plan is to take the ideas of classical music and set it to the modern structures of post-rock and indie ballads. He and his troupe, consisting of a violist, two violinists, a cellist, and himself on the piano, released Eulogy for Evolution in late October, 2007. Arnalds managed to accomplish his goals and plenty more in this nearly flawless debut release.
Given the choice of instrumentation, it isn’t going to take much work for Arnalds to take hold of your heart strings. The opening notes of 0040 float in, effortlessly causing chills to run up the spine. You’ll notice this happening more and more as the music goes along. It is in this sense that Eulogy for Evolution takes its precedence. Arnalds’ knack for constructing beautifully emotional, heartfelt, and developing melodies and impeccable musical timing make his sound undeniably original. Arnalds’ use of homophonic choruses on tracks like 0952 and 3055 goes unrivaled, setting the melody with piano, and progressing through a chordal accompaniment via his string counterparts. Every song on this release is remarkably chilling in its beauty and gentile dynamic.
Perhaps the most memorable highlights of Eulogy for Evolution are the two climax points. The first of these appears in Track 6 (a.k.a. 3055). Once the melody is established, the music is joined by a tom-laden drum track which gives the music a fresh new appeal. The second does not appear until the last track. As the album draws to a conclusion, a sudden burst of sound makes you suddenly very aware of what you’re listening to. Distorted guitars and drums explode onto the soundscape. This powerful ballad is maintained for only a few measures before it begins to skip like a scratched CD, and it disappears just as quickly as it arose. The listener is now left with a few chords on the organ keyboard before the sound fades away.
Bear in mind, this is a debut album, and it is not entirely without flaw. One of the more notable of these is melodic progression, which becomes very predictable by the second half of the album. If the casual listener already has trouble trying to adapt to the sound, this will only exacerbate the issue. This may also be a personal opinion, but certain tracks (i.e. 1953) have a low replay value, as they are outshone by the more active tracks. These are minor flaws which can be overlooked with some ease, and are to be fixed in his second release.
With this debut album in the books, and already 2 more critically-acclaimed releases to date, Mr. Arnalds has proven that he possesses some serious talent. His sound has since evolved to incorporate more electronica and indie elements, and he threatens to further expand this sound in future releases. There’s no denying, this young gentleman is a force to be reckoned with.
Overall Rating: 4.6/5