The Faroe Islands are a self-governing entity off the coast of Denmark. I was completely unaware of their existence until I researched the background and history of Hamferð, to my knowledge the most famous band from these islands. Their debut album, Evst, flew completely under the radar in 2013, and I gave their sophomore album, Támsins likam, a try mainly because of the gruesome and creepy artwork. Boy oh boy am I glad that I did. This little gem of a record is a unique and engaging slab of epic death-doom (leaning heavy on the doom) that is most assuredly a delightful surprise to kick off the year.
Musically, Hamferð play a type of epic doom metal that calls to mind at times Katatonia with some moderated death metal influences that recall early Opeth. Vocalist Jón Aldará (who also sings with Barren Earth) vacillates his delivery between wretched growls (holding down the minor death metal flourishes) and soaring cleans in a manner that is almost discombobulating in its massive tonal shifting. But be patient with this record, and you will see that there is a great deal of stark beauty to be found. Opening track “Fylgisflog” makes it abundantly clear that this is not going to be like most other albums you hear in this subgenre. Its dramatic, soft and understated beginning eventually swells into a doom anthem of epic proportions, introducing Aldará’s vocal style with immediate impact. Subsequent track “Stygd” continues this trajectory but with even more heaviness, injecting a buzzing, mammoth sequence of riffs that provide Aldará with a thunderous sonic palette upon which to exercise his unique vocal acrobatics. Songs on the record tend to express either crushing heaviness (“Tvistevndur meldur” and “Hon syndrast”) or expansive, atmospheric intensity (“Frosthvarv” and “Vapn I anda”), blending together in a pool of sounds that differ in sonic trajectory, but all feel part of a cohesive whole. This is in part thanks to some solid production and all-around capable performances by the band’s musicians (particularly the measured, deliberate drumming of Remi Kofoed Johannesen). If you can buy into the band’s unique vocal approach, this music will carry to dark places that you may or may not be ready for. Either way, it’s a journey well worth taking.
I strongly recommend given this record a listen. The music, vocals, songwriting, and atmosphere all combine to create a fantastic doom odyssey that is unlike most other albums populating the subgenre. It’s a unique and rewarding sonic journey from start to finish that deserves to be consumed with relish.
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