Paradísarborgarplötur might be my new favorite record label.
I emailed them a few months ago trying to track down a copy of Ofvitarnir’s Stephen Hawking / Steven Tyler release, and less than a month and one Paypal payment later a box full of CDs and cassettes from Reykjavik showed up on my doorstep. Not only did I get the CD I was looking for, but that order also included three Fighting Shit CDs and a bunch of other cool stuff, not all of which I’ve managed to get to yet. Check them out and order some product!
But back to the reason I contacted the label in the first place. I believe it was about two years ago at Iceland Airwaves 2012 when my main man Ingvar over at Reykjavik’s Lucky Records put a copy of Ofvitarnir’s Nóttin varð köld og í lengra lagi CD into my hand and told me I needed to buy it. So of course I did. I probably didn’t get around to listening to it for a few months after we got home, but I was very impressed when I did – in fact this is one of the albums that ended up making the rounds to some of our friends, most of who came away impressed.
What I didn’t realize until recently was that one of the members of Ofvitarnir is none other than Þórir Georg Jónsson, who’s solo album It’s A Wonderful Life I wrote about previously and who was also a member of Fighting Shit. I connected with him via email and we traded a few messages, and it turns out he’s been involved in a lot of musical projects over the years… and that Ofvitarnir is working on a new album that should come out later this year, which is great news. So with all that in mind, I figured I’d take another listen to the two CDs of theirs that I have (there was also a cassette release) and share how cool they are.
Stephen Hawking / Steven Tyler (2011)
I’ve written about my struggles in “genre-izing” bands before, so forgive me if I have a hard time describing Ofvitarnir’s sound. On the label website they describe the style as “garage punk, indie rock and post-hardcore,” and that’s probably way better than what I could come up with. They’re definitely lo-fi, particularly in the way the vocals are recorded, which gives them a haunting, detached spirit kind of quality, and they certainly have both pop and punk influences.
Ofvitarnir brings it all together best on the song “Rorschach,” which alternates between lonely desperation and a sad anger, the perfect use of Þórir’s distinctive vocal style. Musically the following tune, “Jurassic Park,” has the best guitar work on it, which drives the song forward and gives it a great structure. Is there maybe a bit of a Neil Young influence here on Stephen Hawking / Steven Tyler? Because it sure sounds like it on “Sveitti Hans,” with it’s simple rock musical rhythm and Þórir straining his voice into a higher register. One of the things that strikes me a bit about the style of this album is that a number of the songs seem to change musical directions right at the end, which faked me out more than once and had me thinking the next track had started when in fact the current one was wrapping up, just doing so in a totally different direction.
You’ve got… nothing to live for
But the beating of your heart.
What used to keep you together,
Now it’s tearing you apart.
At eight songs and just under 30 minutes it’s a pretty quick listen, but if you’re like me you’ll find yourself wanting more when it’s done. Which is why I went back to my CD rack and pulled out…
Nóttin varð köld og í lengra lagi (2012)
This album is two songs longer than it’s predecessor, but it’s also two minutes shorter. It only takes a few seconds to understand why this is, because right out of the gate Nóttin varð köld og í lengra lagi has a harder and faster style on the opening track “Robo-Pelican Man,” which in a further departure from the debut CD comes to an abrupt end without trying to fake me out with style changes. Musically the band comes across as tighter sounding and more produced, with only the vocals maintaining the lo-fi, echoey quality that defined Stephen Hawking / Steven Tyler. Sometimes they even get flat-out heavy, most noticeably on the second half of “My Voice Is Over//My Brain Is Dead.”
In an odd twist Ofvitarnir actually cover themselves, playing a sped-up, heavier version of “Scott Bakula,” a song that also appeared on their prior album, and I have to say I like what they did with it – in fact it’s one of the best songs on this CD. The vocals, while still echoey, are more up front, with a sharp guitar and powerful bass notes. And bonus points for naming a song after Scott Bakula. Ultimately though I think it’s “What In The Name Of Hell Was That?” that takes the top spot with a great guitar riff, feedback, and it’s edgier and more disjointed sound – it isn’t as “clean” sounding as much of the rest of the album, and I like it’s rawness.
So if you made it all the way to the bottom of this post, I’m going to let you in on a little secret as a reward. You can download both these albums FOR FREE on the label’s website. Just follow the link and click on releases. Obviously it would be nice if you’d actually buy the digital download or CD and kick these guys some cash – they’re not rich rock stars, trust me. But hey, this is the perfect way to check out Ofvitarnir for yourself and see (or more precisely, hear) what you think. While you’re there check out some of their other stuff too, especially The Deathmetal Supersquad!