A seventh son with undescended testicles

Everything must go. Sigur Rós became a trio, like in the early Victory Rose years back in the 90s, ‘cause Kjarri left the post-rock band after the release of their 6th studio album “Valtari” (2012). The three-piece returns to the roots of the band, after getting lost in translation in mainstream Hollywood dead end roads and running on New Age beaten tracks. Unclear they were becoming a pastiche or parody of themselves. Spinal Tap was just around the corner, after 20 years on the road.

“Kveikur” (Candlewick) is the 7th son of the same mother but with a different father, a grunge dad who’s fond of distorted bass, reverb accentuated guitar and ding-dong drums and is into krav maga. Once the ensign-bearers of the Krútt generation, the boys promised us a more aggressive sound. Probably his virtual father introduced the boy in martial arts.

This record out on the XL Recordings label, has a lookalike of the Elephant Man on the cover and the back. The rest of the artwork is a bit atypical, artifical not fitting the music and too cute. But let’s come to business. “Brennisteinn” (Brimstone) has a promising start, like a shoegaze giant is approaching in the mist. Unfortunately after 4 minutes Godzilla has left the building. The second song “Hrafntinna” (Obsidian) remains a polished semi-precious stone, although the brass ending is appealing. In “Ísjaki” (Iceberg) the band takes you on a trip on a tourist boat on Jökulsárlón, the glacial river lagoon, without the King of the World. Fortunately “Yfirborð” (Surface) ends in a strange surprise. “Stormur” (Storm) has a promising title, but is lacking sturm und drang. Title track “Kveikur” (Candlewick) has a Björkish intro, and brassy outro. A flash of lightning in “Rafstraumur” (Electric Current), but no electrocution in the end. No AC, definitely no DC, even a music box interrups the electricity. “Bláþráður” (Thin Thread) babbles and the instrumental “Var” (Was/Shelter) murmurs.

“Kveikur” could have been a masterpiece when the songs were as strong as the intros and the rhythm session, with leaving out the overload of the cute, cosy, whooshy woooh-OOOh’s by Jónsi. What remains is just a couple of outstanding songs (“Brennisteinn”, “Kveikur”). Possibly maybe the songs work better in a stadium, when you see Jónsi is wearing an Iron Maiden t-shirt. When the seventh son has conquered its preterm birth and his testicles are descended.

– Wim Van Hooste