Jun 14, 2013 Web Exclusive
Sigur Rós' seventh full-length starts with amiasma of thunderous crashes. A year later and one member fewer than the paper-thin whisper that was previous album Valtari, it's almost as if the Icelandic trio is making up for lost time with sheer volume. (Either that or frontman Jónsi Birgisson's metalhead roots are finally starting to show.) Regardless, they've succeeded in their mini-reinvention/back-to-basics approach, riding the same wild Norse winds that started blowing with their sophomore album, Ágætis byrjun.
Kveikur (English translation: kindle) burns brightly with a rough-and-tumble grace. But no matter how many discordant guitars they employ, the band will never fully rise above the adjective "ethereal." The combination of their cosmic instrumental clatter and Jónsi's pixie-like falsetto leaves those who believe in God hoping Sigur Rós will pop up on heaven's soundtrack. But here, they grasp for a darkened and more refined version of their fractured fairytales. This is a band that's never met a minor key they couldn't make their own. "Yfirboro," in particular, benefits from this grayscale approach, opening and closing with pitched-down vocals—a technique that has read as sinister ever since The Knife appropriated it for Silent Shout. The song crescendoes into a white noise and percussion-filled cloud, Jónsi's voice sounding less like a divine messenger and more like someone mournfully witnessing a violent aftermath. The title track takes the vocal displacement a step further, Jónsi leaving behind his gossamer croon in favor of shouting amongst the industrial/punk instrumentation. Violent and beautiful, it's a song endemic of the album as a whole—where, from a whisper to a scream, the band wrings emotion from every moment. In other words: it's everything we once came to expect from Sigur Rós. For those whose faith might have been temporarily tested by Valtari, Kveikur is a vibrant and much-needed reminder that the band's creative well is far from running dry. (www.sigur-ros.co.uk)
Author rating: 8/10
Average reader rating: 8/10