I’m not sure why I pulled DIMMA’s Myrkraverk CD off the shelf on Friday. I was working from home and craving some metal, but DIMMA hasn’t been the my regular metal rotation recently, which has been heavily weighted towards Skálmöld, Metallica, and Slayer. But for some reason DIMMA’s soaring and epic style seemed to fill a need.
Perhaps, however, it was fate, a harmonic convergence of sorts. Because, you see, the opening song on Myrkraverk is called “Sólmyrkvi,” which is the Icelandic word for the solar eclipse, a word I didn’t know the meaning of until about 20 minutes ago. And Friday just happened to be the same day that a mega awesome solar eclipse was visible in Iceland, one that seemingly all of my Icelandic friends wrote about on Facebook. That explosion you may have just heard way off in the distance was my mind being blown.
When the norse gods speak to you in this way, you should listen. I don’t need Loki coming over here and screwing up my day.
But back to DIMMA. I’ve written about the band before a couple of times. We’ve seen them live at Airwaves in each of the last two years and both times they blew me away with both the quality of their music and their stage presence. Look, I get it, the music is the most important part. But I like seeing a band that knows how to perform too, not just standing there like blocks of wood. And DIMMA know how to perform. Even on the incredibly cramped stage of Gaukurinn last year they got after it like they were on the biggest stage at Harpa. And the crowd loved it.
DIMMA has been around since 2004 and still includes two founding members, brothers Ingo (guitar) and Silli (bass) Geirdal. Their current lineup solidified in 2011 with the addition of drummer Birgir Jonsson and high octane frontman Stefan Jakobsson (below), and Myrkraverk was the first full-length release by this quartet. Google Translate tells me the title means “Deed of Darkness,” and it’s a word that appears with some frequency in the Icelandic metal scene, with at least one band named Myrkraverk and a few albums sharing the same title (including one by previously reviewed Carpe Noctem). It fits with what is a somewhat darker themed album – or so I’ve read, because the whole thing is in Icelandic and I haven’t tried to translate all the lyrics. In fact Myrkraverk is DIMMA’s first release to be sung entirely in Icelandic, a language particularly well suited for this type of music – it just sounds right.
Myrkraverk is everything that was great about late 1970s/early 1980s heavy metal. At its best this is probably the closest thing you can get to classical music – intricate, soaring, and emotionally charged. And that’s exactly what DIMMA gives us. Ingo’s guitars set the mood, but there’s plenty of room left for the rhythm section to get their licks in. One of the big advantages the band has in being able to do this type of music, alternating between doomy and fancy, is Jakobsson’s vocal range. His voice is just so clean, regardless of whether he’s singing low or high. No matter what the music is doing around him, he has the ability to sing within it. The best example is the title track, a song that opens slow and low for about a minute and a half with quiet vocals, before the guitars kick it up a notch for another 30 seconds and then erupt into a driving hard rocker, allowing Jakobsson to take it to the heavens.
If I was picking favorites, I’d say that the best tracks are”Sólmyrkvi,” “Myrkraver,” and “Þungur Kross,” the last of which is the slowest, heaviest, angriest song on the album. “Þungur Kross” builds tension like it’s going to break loose and fly apart at some point, but DIMMA keep it tight, such that even when the crescendo comes just after the three minute mark you still don’t get that full release and the band brings it back down to heavy again.
For you live junkies there’s also Myrkraverk í Hörpu, a CD/DVD combo pack of a January 2013 performance at Harpa. The set includes Myrkraverk in its entirety (though not in the same order as the songs appear on the studio album) along with some older DIMMA classics, “Dimmey,” “Dementia,” and “Black Magic.”
DIMMA has been recording with old school Icelandic punk Bubbi Morthens recently, doing some live shows and putting out a couple of new songs, and it sounds like they’ll be performing together at Airwaves this year. I for one can’t wait to see that live and in person! Only about seven more months until Airwaves…