Review Summary: behold salvation’s deformed visage
Coming from a scene blessed with an unnaturally high concentration of talent, Hvisl Stjarnanna
is the record that finally pushes Sinmara to the vanguard of Icelandic black metal. Since forming in Reykjavik a decade ago, the enigmatic quintet has released a gnarly debut, two splits, and an excellent EP, with each bringing further refinement to the band's disso-dominated beginnings. At a sprawling 42 minutes of celestial-worshiping black metal, Hvisl Stjarnanna
shows that Sinmara is keenly aware of their scorched roots, but have eyes to the stars above.
They've come to understand how important the balance between harmony and havoc - a particularly dubious quality to master - can be in the realization and execution of a truly compelling black metal album. And it's not just the fact they now posses such intensely melodic arrangements within their Deathspell Omega-inspired cacophony - it's how they wield them. Despair dresses the introduction to first track "Apparitions", but Sinmara's newfound duality is immediately recognizable in following song, "Mephitic Haze". Though birthed in a stormy miasma of tuneless atmosphere, bolts of melody soon pierce through the tumult, their tendrils proliferating a grey-hued sky.
Their focus on creating a neigh impenetrable wall of sound hasn't shifted per say, but they've learned to embellish. With a widened palette comes nuance, as each track -especially the standout number "Crimson Stars" - displays a considerable amount of character and depth that begs to be revisited. While that same density could possibly prevent some from returning, upon repeated listens these intricacies become more welcome, each point of disparity evolving into its own defining moment.
As a culmination of their career contained within the confines of a singular album, Hvisl Stjarnanna
is the ideal showcase to display just how far the band has come in the ten years since their formation. It feels impossible to deny Sinmara a spot in the pantheon of the Icelandic scene now. It's a distinction they rightfully deserve, as not only one of the best bands to come from their home country, but one of the best in the genre.