Serendipitous voorslag — The full-body shocked by ice water finds the will’s remnants, at least enough to fight back to solid ground. Few experiences shock the mind into the ‘purpose’ of living quicker than drowning, the vexing nature of “want” versus “need” disappears as one sinks into the depress of unknown abyss; Compression from all angles sets in slow motion as the need for air makes the affected’s next move crucially binary: Desist and stagnate into weightless torpor or, turn away from depression’s curse and push towards the upward light. The idea that terrifying darkness is necessary, that feeling one extreme is crucial and “needed” to know the a more steady happiness relies entirely on the subject’s desire for some measure of normalcy or leveling spirit. You may never see the horizon, only deeper hills and valleys as time passes. A tough-legged and violent-armed warrior driven by conquest of waves, be they emotional grief or existential dread, as purpose is likely chasing an ever-setting sun. Gasping one breath of air between each slapping wave against your skull may appear as mediocrity in the moment yet, living beyond conflict and refusing to succumb to the ulterior abyss is itself the most pure ‘purpose’ where survival erases the mutated “pet” bisection of desire and necessity. The mythic-minded storm of Icelandic “atmoblackened” post-metal quartet Dynfari sets itself still adrift at sea beyond their most pensive fourth cycle as we settle in for their fifth full-length album, ‘Myrkurs er þörf’, an exploration of necessary darkness and the desirous nature of stabilizing light in their unending sojourn of existential anxiety and meaning within bleakest circumstance.
The blending of commercialized and (quickly tiring out) atmospheric post-rock guitar techniques with the rising application of post-metal’s dynamic standards in the late 2000’s made for a perfect storm of easily iterated and often cheaply imitative atmospheric black metal that has only just dried of its wave at the close of this last decade; Only now are we beginning to see the outliers who’d changed slowly and surely, the interesting and quite driven folks who’d arrived upon casual style as fairly earnest teens and perhaps found themselves a few albums into a craft that yet holds a somewhat trendy stigma. Reykjavík-borne Dynfari began as a duo of eighteen year old gentlemen who were clearly inspired by the changing stylistic tides of Sólstafir and perhaps a bit of later Agalloch and Alcest in their rotation, post-rock taste viewed from the perspective of young men still willing to engage with the extremes offered by black metal’s perceived counter-cultural value. Their first two records ‘Dynfari‘ (2011) and ‘Sem Skugginn‘ (2012) came in rapid succession with the second being admirable for its brazenly raw (for the style) self-recording and from that point it’d seem they’d sat down, gotten “serious” with their label and given it a proper go at a world class release. By 2015 Icelandic metal sensibilities and curiously insular Scandinavian diction could’ve been described as on trend alongside the full berth of post-black metal’s more inspired pop-metal album works. You might’ve missed it but ‘Vegferð Tímans‘ (2015) was a success for the group it was what I’d consider their “Köld” moment where the press and atmoblack/post-metal crossover fandom began to pay attention to their lyrical themes, artistic vision and the sort of ‘void’ they filled for folks who felt like Sólstafir had gone full on post-rock, however true or fitting that may not be.
Set yourself in the mind of the artist, specifically the very talented and expressive sensation of being guitarist, vocalist, and sometimes accordionist Jóhann Örn who grapples with dualism, depression and contrasting textures in mind as he toys with them with some strong adept virtue in construct of Dynfari‘s musical foundation. His grip upon the greater vision of the project loosened slightly on ‘The Four Doors of The Mind‘ (2017) as a full four piece band entered into congress for its writing sessions and somehow a much more personal, revelatory album resulted. Yes, it was post-metal via atmospheric black metal’s easy lilt at the end of the day but it was also a showcase of hundred year old native poetry and well, interviews from that time period are quite extensive in detailing personal issues with depression and existential anxiety. Existentialism continues to be the guiding spiritus of Dynfari today and I was being literal when suggesting ‘Myrkurs er þörf’ picks up right after ‘The Four Doors of the Mind’ as they night seamlessly transition from end to start in succession. This time around it seems they’ve written their own lyrics, found even more of a classic post-rock presence, and move even further from “black metal” style towards some recognizable yet generalized sub-genre influence. A full spin through the ~47 minute record is lightening, easing as Örn‘s torment is readable and relatable despite the Icelandic language being slightly too convoluted in affect to match the longer, sweeping piece’s romancing of his internal corruption and conquest.
Though the artist cites Jung and I believe Plomer‘s poetry the greater journey of ‘Myrkurs er þörf’ reads to me much like a consideration of the larger questions raised within Camus’ The Myth of Sisyphus where funereal existentialist dwelling turns to absurdism as the question of suicide (or similar self destruction) is raised and lowered with a gentler sensitivity than expected. The nearly 11 minute dirge unto enlightenment of “Peripheral Dreams” at the end of the album finds Örn and Dynfari doing something they’ve never quite managed (in a narrative sense) thus far: Satisfying resolve. There is a carapace of steel achieved in this bigger moment built toward via many slow, meandering and heavily emotional pieces that allow this English-sung apex to feel like a first breath after quite a long consideration of ones mortality. The escalation leading up to that point is lyrically a series of waves, peaks and valleys of mood and personal restitution and perhaps those Icelandic lyrics are best left to be personally translated and poured over by the most invested listener. The gist of it for the peripherally compelled is a very “relaxed” and dirging album that resembles much more of a sturm und drang when cranked loud and taken as a bit of a black metal/post-rock hybridization. Musically it probably has more in common with an album like Russian Circles‘ ‘Enter’ than early Alcest, recent Fen, or whatever post-black turned post-metal act I could think up and this despite the minor chord melancholy it persists with. More importantly, ‘Myrkurs er þörf’ doesn’t just pick up previous album left off but it vitally takes us somewhere new and far less helplessly adrift than we’d started. The hopeful punctuation and boldly-spoken exodus of closing piece “Of Suicide and Redemption” seals this big ‘post-rock album endpoint’ cliche in some sense but the effect is yet undeniable.
As primarily emotion-driven music aiming for a cinematic rock style yet influenced by extreme metal there isn’t any certain point in Dynfari‘s discography past-or-present that makes me want to pick up a guitar and tear the world a new one (maybe the solos on “Langar nætur (í botnlausum spíralstiga)“?). The “metal” lizard brain within doesn’t shut off as often as you’d think on my end and certainly not when black metal is an influence so, I would suggest this album to folks sensitive enough to see ‘Spiritual Instinct’ as a slight return or anyone yearning for the dynamic of a band like Heretoir but the easier, most understated build-and-release of early 2010’s Sólstafir in mind. I’ve felt the album to be well worth exploring, both for its themes and the curiously meandering arrangements that do eventually find their drive or dirge unto some manner of effective revelation or personal statement. A moderately high recommendation.
|TITLE:||Myrkurs er þörf|
|RELEASE DATE:||September 18th, 2020|
|BUY & LISTEN:||Bandcamp [All Formats]|
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