Bigger, darker, introverted and aggressive: these are words that spring to mind when listening to Kveikur, the seventh studio album from Iceland’s favourite export, Sigur Rós. With the departure of multi-instrumentalist Kjartan Sveinsson, it’s no wonder that the band have taken a different direction from their usual lush and atmospheric sounds, releasing it just over 12 months since last album Valtari.
From the very beginning, Kveikur demands your attention with bold and explosive track ‘Brennisteinn’ (Icelandic for brimstone), which is both a very apt name and the perfect opening for the self proclaimed “more aggressive” sounding album. From their use of heavy drum kicks and clashing cymbals, that aggressive sound establishes itself and plants your feet in prime position for the entirety of the album.
Throughout the rest of Kveikur, you are taken on a journey through mechanical wastelands with clashing beats, across to a warm and upbeat field that leaves a taste reminiscent of the past, and leaves you with some hauntingly beautiful melodies with sombre endings.
Title track ‘Kveikur’ is rife with fuzzy guitars and clashing drum beats, painting a distorted and imperfect depiction of the Sigur Rós world, which, for a band that usually takes their audience along to their mythical daydream, is exactly what they wanted.
In the middle you experience somewhat upbeat tracks ‘Ísjaki’ and ‘Rafstraumur’ that you might even consider to be ‘pop’ if Sigur Rós weren’t so far removed from the pop world.
This shift in direction is welcome one; it takes Sigur Rós from being the soundtrack to your dreams, and makes them tangible, gritty, and powerful. It makes them more in tune with everything that is to be human without losing their ambient touch. It’s aggressive, it’s violent, it brings you up and takes you back down again, but it’s real, and it’s really good.
Star rating: 4 out of 5
Brace yourself for an emotional journey into Kveikur:
Sigur Rós’ Kveikur can be purchased now from the band’s webstore.