Review Summary: Straight up icy, raging black metal, in leather and spikes, with plenty of atmosphere and exceptional vocals. This is a solid first release that aims high and ultimately succeeds, solidifying their place as a "band to watch" for any fans of the genre.
In today's state of black metal, where everything is "post" this/that or some sort of unfocused genre mash-up, it is refreshing to discover this debut album from Icelandic duo Misþyrming. This band has been developing some momentum in the underground and with good reason. This is a solid first release that aims high and ultimately succeeds, solidifying their place as a "band to watch" for any fans of the genre.
Aesthetically, there is no denying that this is a black metal band to the core. No hipsters with tortoise shell glasses and deep V-necks or douche-bags in flat bill caps unsure of exactly which genre they're trying to represent. Just straight up icy, raging black metal, in leather and spikes, with plenty of atmosphere and exceptional vocals. That being said, while the music is grim, it is not without levity. The band peppers in wonderful little hints of the earlier era of the black metal sound here and there which actually brought a smile to my face, as a black metal "grandpa", on more than one occasion. Just a touch of those little things that show that the band really "gets" what their listeners want to hear are offered and very much appreciated.
Overall the sound as a whole harkens somewhat to the raw "Nordic" sound prevalent through the earlier 90's, but done so with a modern take and perspective. No keyboards, no operas, no female vocals. It is melodic, but still sinister, with a good sense of song structure and riff development (despite some repetitive moments). The pacing is perfect: predominately blasting but subdued when it needs to be. And, while it never really offers any of those climatic, "stirring" breakthrough riffs that were so great about 90's black metal, it IS one of those rare albums where you can tell one track from the other with relative ease. You will be taken through a variety of emotional responses throughout it's relatively short running time. However, the beating heart of second-wave black metal is consistent throughout.
The production is cavernous, which really serves the music well. The musicianship is just imperfect enough to make it feel like actual humans
performed it (not pro tools). The vocalist is exceptional, with a deep, guttural "yell" which reminds this reviewer of older Dodheimsgard, Aeternus or, more recently, Negative Plane.
This band has the unique ability, I think, of being able to appeal to the new school and the old, without one faction questioning the other. This is accomplished through their ability to bring some non-traditional elements into the aforedescribed music in a way that is subtle yet effective, but without ever causing the listener to question that what they are hearing is 100% irony-free black metal. The sludgy moments of track 1, plenty of atonal high end guitar jangling and the occasionally adventurous drum beat patterns here and there are examples. My only complaint would be track 7 "Söngur uppljómunar": I fear this track was a bit overdone. The overly folksy riffs on the first part of the track feel a bit hokey and forced in a way that kind of took me out of the experience of the album as a whole. Multiple listens through the album did not really help, either. Also, while I like that the album came out blasting with no pointless intro, the 2 ambient tracks on the album were overly long and could have been just as effective, atmospherically speaking, if their lengths were cut in half. They are good tracks, but it makes one wonder if they were just drawn out to fluff the overall length of the album.
All in all, though, the good far outweighs the bad. Fans from all corners of the black metal community should find something to like with this album. As a debut release, it is certainly formidable and comes highly recommended from this reviewer. I look forward to future releases from this band as I am sure they will continue to evolve and improve upon their sound. I hope this is the beginning of a long and successful career for them.