Thursday, July 18, 2013
Sigur Rós - Kveikur (2013)
Country: Reykjavík, Iceland
Sigur Rós, for all the popularity and coverage they have gotten, they are still one of those bands who is continually trying to push their sound. Whether one happens to agree with the shift on a given album or not, it is something that definitely deserves the respect of the listener. I wasn't expecting another album so soon after the release of last year's Valtari, let alone what the shift the band would implore.
I first found out about this album soon after it was announced with single Brennisteinn. I recall the site I read the news from at the time had described it as the band moving into a more "metal" direction, now, I don't mean to criticize that writer/journalist but not only was that track not metal, but it wasn't particularly heavy either (which is something that could be applied to the album as a whole). So that person obviously had no idea what they were talking about. But for myself, when I first heard that single, I was surprised by how much more distorted and dark the band's sound was. If I had described the band's sound on their previous six albums, I really wouldn't use either of those terms very often, if at all. Their sound tended to be more atmospheric, dreamy, tranquil, and other terms like that. Each album had its own feel for sure, but there was rarely a moment as dark as what is expressed on this album as a whole. But I heard it in another review for this record that while Valtari from last year was easily the band's most ambient album, a sentiment I agree with, this is the opposite of that, being the band's most intense and distorted, though intense is completely relative to how aggressively the band have played in the past, so be warned. In my opinion, while the band retain that dreamy quality of previous albums, it's mixed in with more of an industrial influence - hence the more distorted tone.
I mean, for all that distorted tone and darker atmosphere, I have to say that I was actually somewhat disappointed by how little the harsher(?) tones were utilized on here. Yes, the entire record is undeniably louder than several of the band's previous recordings, but in terms of what I would consider to be an industrial influence providing more than just the occasional influence, it doesn't even appear until track five, Stormur. I'm not complaining, the band still pump out a couple of really solid and catchy tunes before that edge really comes out, namely the insanely catchy and poppy Ísjaki. I think for me it was just that I had this idea that the band was going to try and actually going really harsh and noisy, in relation to their previous work obviously, but about the first half of this record is just what they've done before, but louder. To me, the darker atmosphere didn't draw me in as much as the lighter ones from past albums because the band was doing a louder sound, which wound up leaving me rather cold to several tracks on the first half. The second half goes into what I did expect from the group, the harsher beats, the almost disturbing vocal melodies, and the darker atmosphere feels far less forced. The title-track was rightly selected because it's easily my favorite track on here and is the epitome of the sound I expected this record to sound like.
So while I was somewhat disappointed by the rift between the amount of experimentation I wanted this album to have and what it actually contained, I did still enjoy this. Obviously it's been praised like crazy from what I've seen, and while this review might have come off a little harsh in spots, I did still dig the majority of the record. If you're a fan of the band or like heavier music and want to hear what all the fuss is about, this might be the best gateway for you.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Ísjaki, Kveikur, Bláþráður