Brött Brekka – “Suicidal Brand Loyalty” (2019)

I pretty much don’t know anything at all about Brött Brekka, other than that their debut album Suicidal Brand Loyalty just dropped earlier this month.  So let’s give it a spin, shall we?

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There’s a bit to unpack here.  Sometimes slow and sludgy, other times with an indie rock tempo, Brött Brekka continuously shift musical gears throughout Suicidal Brand Loyalty, even doing so within songs.  They tagged themselves as “mathrock” on Bandcamp, and for once that is an apt description.  I’m no expert on timing signatures, but there’s disjointedness to some of the passages, that sort of uncomfortable feeling you get when you hear non-standard timing.  And I don’t mean that in a bad way.  Not at all.  “Give Me a Minute” is an all-too-brief high point, a heavy jam with a bit of early 2000s vocal disdain clocking in at 1:19, though it bleeds seamless into “Minute Give” as if the pair were in fact the same song.  “King of the Moon” carries a punk vibe, particularly in the vocals, though with a very unpunk guitar solo.  Meanwhile the spoken vocals on “The Twelve” are reminiscent of something Cake might have done, but with a lot more attitude.

Suicidal Brand Loyalty is available for streaming and purchase at Bandcamp HERE.

Hvörf – “Music Library 01” (2019)

hvorflibrary01Jóhannes Birgir Pálmason is best known for his work as Epic Rain, and in fact the fourth Epic Rain album came out earlier this month (review to follow in the upcoming weeks…).  However, that’s not the only record Jóhannes released in 2019.  Hell, it’s not even the only album he released in November, because on the same day that Epic Rain’s All Things Turn To Rust came out, so too did Music Library 01 from his new project Hvörf.  Joining him as part of Hvörf is none other than Þórir Georg, who has appeared on Life in the Vinyl Lane many times for his solo work as well as with Fighting ShitÓreiða, Roht, and probably a dozen other bands I’m forgetting.  Between them the pair have covered a wide range of musical genres from electronic to hip hop, singer-songwriter to hardcore, indie to black metal, so when I first heard about Hvörf I was curious as to what kind of sounds they’d make together.

I was not expecting library music.

Now, don’t be confused.  Music Library 01 isn’t some kind of generic collection of music and sound designed with TV and film producers in mind.  At least not entirely.  There are absolutely some delicate tracks such as “The Cosmic Connection”, with it’s piano and gentle guitar foundation, that would be absolutely perfect for a movie score.  But we also have more experimental works like “Life On Other Planets” that utilize dialog samples from other media as part of the sonic composition.  When viewed as a whole we see that Music Library 01 is anchored by these two styles, and in fact they alternate across the albums eight tracks – the odd numbered songs played as low key and at times dramatic instrumentals while the even numbered tracks have a more sci-fi sensibility and use dialog sampling all of which seems to be tied to aliens and/or a possible nuclear apocalypse, giving them a somewhat dystopian feel.  It’s like two four-song EPs, except instead of each EP taking up one thematically consistent side the songs are shuffled together like a deck of cards.  The effect is not as obvious as you might think, because while the two styles are different they retain some similar stylistic elements, the underlying atmospheric foundation the same for all eight compositions.  It’s some exception chill out music.

Music Library 01 is available for listening at Bandcamp HERE.  The vinyl was put out on the Lucky Records imprint, and while not for sale on Bandcamp it is available through their store in Reykjavik.  Discogs indicates it’s a relatively small pressing of 250 copies, so make sure to get yours.

Óreiða – “Óreiða” (2019)

There’s a surprising amount of black metal coming out of Iceland these days, and perhaps even more surprising is the range of different sonic experiences they provide, from the guttural growlers with their machine gun drumming to the the atmospheric hellscapes, there’s a lot of breadth.

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Óreiða has taken it’s own path to darkness on its self-titled debut, a cacophonous and unrelenting irresistible force of sound, like a moving sonic wall pushing everything before it, never slowing, never stopping.  In fact, I’m not so sure that black metal is even the right descriptor for this.  I’m not even sure the English language has the right word or combination of words to describe it.  Is that a flute I hear on “Daudi”?  I’m not sure, but whatever it is gives the song a strange folk flavor despite the guitar that burrows into your skull.  The most classically metal song on the album is the closer, “Draugar”, with its repetitive underlying riff and lightning-fast-if-understated drums.

The good news is you can listen to Óreiða on Bandcamp HERE.  The bad news is that the limited edition vinyl (100 copies in splatter, 150 copies in black) are sold out, so you’ll have to get them on the secondary market.

Mr. Silla – “Hands On Hands” (2019)

mrsillahandsHands On Hands is the second solo album by Sigurlaug Gísladóttir under the moniker Mr. Silla.  Gísladóttir has collaborated with a range of artists over the years, though she’s best known for her vocal duties with múm.  Hands On Hands finds her exploring soundscapes of electro-dream-pop, the compositions restrained and understated despite the lush way the music fills space.  The first half of title track is a masterpiece of simplicity before a mid-song interlude that introduces layer upon vocal layer and changing its entire complexion.  “Gloria” is the must up-tempo piece on Hands On Hands, a virtual pop explosion when compared to its predecessors, creating a feeling being outside in the sun with the grass between your toes.

Hands On Hands is available for listening and purchase on the Mr. Silla Bandcamp page HERE.

Une Misère – “Sermon” (2019)

We first encountered Une Misère at Iceland Airwaves 2017, and it was one of those magical examples of going to a venue to see one band (in this case Hatari) and being unexpectedly blown away by another.  Une Misère’s live performance hits you like a runaway semi truck, barreling along at breakneck speed with utter disregard for any obstacle in its path.  The sonic and psychic destruction is that complete, and we walked away that evening big fans.  We saw them again just a week ago (below), and trust me when I tell you they haven’t lost a step.  In fact they may even be picking up speed.

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I kept tabs on them after that first exposure and was surprised to find their only output were some digital downloads on their Bandcamp page (and I strongly encourage you to check out 010717 HERE).  How did these guys not have a deal, even one with one of the smaller Icelandic labels, to put out a physical release?  Well, it took a while, but earlier this year it was announced that Une Misère were releasing their debut LP Sermon, and on Nuclear Blast nonetheless.  I was lucky enough to track down a copy of the gold splatter edition while in Reykjavik last week (edition of 500), and this will be the first of many posts on Icelandic releases over the next few months as I dig through the pile of stuff we brought home.

For background on the band I refer you to a feature from earlier this year in the English language Reykjavik Grapevine HERE.  The wide-ranging interview included all of the band members and provides a solid background into their history together and motivations.

Sermon captures Une Misère’s live intensity, a crossover of hardcore and thrash, aggro and insightful, the embracing of life’s pain that is necessary in order to overcome.

Struggle to fight the pain within,
I won’t give in,
I won’t give in.
Push on,
Push every word you say,
They won’t hear you,
Blame me,
Feel my vengeance. 
— “Voiceless”

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The power of the music comes at you from every direction.  Pounding drums that sometimes transition suddenly to double bass and then back again, rage-fueled vocals, and not one, not two, but three shredding guitars fill the sonic space.  But Sermon is well mixed and there’s room here for everything.  “Failure” is the song that sticks out the most, a jam that maintains the core elements of Une Misère’s sound while being very intentionally structured.  Yes, it has speed and power, but it doesn’t rely on them so much as it does sculpt them in a way that creates a specific shape and form.  “Overlooked/Disregarded” is one of their earliest works, dating back to 2016, and it’s as powerful as ever on Sermon.

This is a killer record and a must-listen-to for those of you who like the hard stuff.  You can sample it online HERE.