Album: The Mountains Are Beautiful Now
Label: Prophecy Productions
Genre: Atmospheric Doom
Release Date: 21 July, 2017
The first thing to acknowledge: this isn’t straight up Metal. There are metallic moments, yes, and some hard-driving riffs, but the majority of it is atmospheric music that is at once beautiful and deadly. Like the title of the record states, the mountains are striking, but this new splendor comes at a stern price.
GlerAkur is a one-man project helmed by Elvar Geir Saevarsson and he composes this music more like a cinematic landscape rather than songs built on bridges and choruses. There’s a lot of what’s called “post rock” here (let me be clear: I hate the term “post” and think it’s redundant and silly, a way for critics to feel important) as well as ambient and drone. Yes, there are guitars, and lots of them, but most are focused on acoustic arrangements, and the songs themselves flow into one another like a soundtrack would, building and crashing, swerving and smashing. There are moments that do rock, and they sound heavier because of the soothing tones found on most of the rest of the record.
This music was written for, and inspired by, the play ‘Fjalla-Eyvindur og Halla’, performed at the National Theatre of Iceland in the winter of 2015. The play was written by Jóhann Sigurjónsson and first appeared in 1911, one of the first Icelandic plays ever written, and it was the first piece of Icelandic literature since the medieval Icelandic Sagas that gained significant recognition abroad. It tells the heroic story of human beings destroyed by society, nature, and love. It is a love story, between a man and woman, Eyvindur and Halla, who have to live as outlaws in order to survive, and who do horrible things to stay together. In the end, they are trapped alone inside a cabin as a never-ending snowstorm swirls around them. They eventually decide to walk into the storm and die together. This is the story GlerAkur interprets on this record, and like the protagonists of the tale, there are many handsome and chilling moments.
Opener “Augun Opin” is a track that starts with an acoustic guitar that slowly fades into the ear of the listener, accompanied by a celestial drone that boosts the power. This is a soft song, cosmic in feel yet intimate in execution. Nearly nine minutes long, this song demands that you relax and absorb all it has to offer. As it nears its end, it gains an industrial sheen, giving it a slightly darker shimmer.
“Can’t You Wait,” brings the metal to bear. The guitars are heavy, the drumming tribal, the bass deep and crushing. Heavy and doomy, this builds from the song before it and slowly climbs. This one grows in strength and steam until the around the five and a half minute mark where it gains more power, gets a little bit faster and more insistent. No vocals, just some sort of choral background, adding atmosphere and texture.
“Fagurt Er A Fiollum Nuna” drops right back down to the placid atmosphere of the first track, lightly strummed acoustics and soothing tones. It thuds to its crescendo starting six minutes into the song, the light becoming dark, the blackness closing in.
This is an album that takes you on a journey. For every peaceful, quiet moment, there are almost as many heavy and terrifying echoes. You can almost see the gorgeous mountains, covered in snow, and the cold sun as it sits in a bleached blue sky. You feel the sweat on the brow of the main characters, and taste the bitter wind as it swirls around, threatening to freeze you in an instant. The placid moments are simply gorgeous, where the drone and the acoustics combine to bring peace and reflection. The heavy moments are scary, and threatening, made all the more so by their proximity to the beauty that comes before and after them. This record is like standing at the foot of a stunning mountain, staring up at it in wonder and awe, and then suddenly realizing that an avalanche has broken out, and you’ll have to run for your life. Really good stuff, if you’re willing to put your biases aside and just listen.
1. Augun Opin
2. Can’t You Wait
3. Fagurt Er A Fiollum Nuna
Total Playing Time: 48:47