Just about this time last year, Simon ran a piece about how Icelandic black metal was primed to be the next big movement in the genre. Though I had been familiar – and highly impressed – with albums from Misþyrming and Naðra, I was genuinely surprised to see how many other quality black metal bands hailed from the small, not-so-icy island. And thankfully for BM fans, Simon was right about this being a growing trend, as 2017 has already plopped Draugsól‘s Volaða Land onto my running top releases list for the year. The album title’s apt translation to “poor country” points to the desolate atmosphere that permeates throughout the record.
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Draugsól provides something for black metal fans of virtually every persuasion. At their core, the band channel Mayhem‘s signature approach to the genre, with ripping riffs and blasts that incorporate an even dose of progressive tendencies. Surrounding this core are the chaotic atmospheres of Deathspell Omega, but specifically DSΩ’s transitional period surrounding Si monvmentvm reqvires, circvmspice; nothing here is truly unhinged like Fas – Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum or Paracletus, but Draugsól provide ample doses of chilling, dissonant atmosphere and riffing. The final and most interesting influence comes from early-career Opeth, albeit with a major emphasis on their BM roots and a much more suffocating approach. Still, the sweeping, folksy melodies of Åkerfeldt and crew show in spades, to the point where Saor and Falloch become fair points of comparison.
If for no other reason, these contrasts should be reason enough to give Volaða Land a spin. The way which Draugsól seamlessly blends these styles almost makes them seem naturally adjacent , and as an overall listen, the album remains dynamic and devastation throughout. Volaða Land is one of a few Icelandic gems from this year that have prompted Simon and I to muse about a sequel to his post from last year, but until then, you should let the album set a high benchmark for what will hopefully continue to be an excellent year for the genre.