The amount of new music coming out of Iceland seems to be increasing exponentially in recent years, much of it generated by young and hungry bands. But lest those whipper-snappers get a bit too cocky, some of the scene’s veterans, the performers who first put Iceland on the musical map, are putting out albums as well. So far 2017 has given us new material from Sólstafir, Singapore Sling , and the delayed-but-soon-to-be-released latest from HAM. And that’s not all, my friends. Oh no. We also got a new album from arguably the most technically perfect band in Iceland, a group that has taken New Wave Of British Heavy Metal style metal to its mountaintop, perfecting the form. I speak, of course, of DIMMA.
DIMMA’s path to the promised land has been an unusual one. Their self-titled 2005 debut caught the attention of Alice Cooper and landed the band a supporting role on Alice’s tour, and they had continued success with 2008s Stigmata. But then they added vocalist Stefán Jakobsson and drummer Birgir Jónsson, and at the same time took what was, in all likelihood, a significant risk – they decided to switch their vocals from English to their native Icelandic. It was a bold move, and one that was likely to hurt them in terms of building an international audience, though it would certainly endear them with their fans at home. So beginning with 2012s Myrkraverk, all of their subsequent releases have been in what may well be the least-spoken European language still in use today.
And you know what? Icelandic is perfect for this kind of metal.
Right from the opening of the album’s first track (and first single) “Villimey” it’s clear that DIMMA still have it. The driving rhythm section, Ingo’s guitar parts going from workman-like to intricate and back again based on the song’s needs, and Stefán’s clear and soaring vocals, it’s everything I love about DIMMA and takes me right back to the last time I saw them live, standing in the very front right up against the stage at Harpa while they just shredded it and rocked my face off.
DIMMA’s brand of metal is generally guitar and vocal based, and given the level of talent they have in those areas that makes sense. When you have a guitarist like Ingo Geirdal the solos and flourishes flow out of him like a torrent; if you asked him to keep all that to himself, he’d probably spontaneously combust. And Stefán Jakobsson’s voice has to be unleashed and allowed to run the gamut of his range. So given that, you wouldn’t be surprised if Eldraunir‘s songs and mix played down the rhythm section. But if there’s one thing that defines DIMMA’s recordings it’s a sense of balance – there’s room here for all four performers, and all four have important contributions to make. Jónsson’s drumming sets the tone right out of the gate on songs like “Villimey” and “Bergmál”, while Silli Geirdal’s bass bubbles up underneath “Hrægammar” and the two combine to provide the foundation for all the album’s tracks.
Eldraunir gets two thumbs up (as if there was ever any doubt in my mind…). DIMMA continue to give us great metal with a sense of style and stage presence to match. I hope I’ll get a chance to see them again at Iceland Airwaves in 2017.
– Jeff Obermeyer