March 22, 2013

Song Review: Sigur Rós' "Brennisteinn"

Valtari, the sixth album from post-rock ambiguators Sigur Rós released just last May, was an okay listen if their brand of dreamy ambiance styled by an Instagram filter is your thing, yet the Icelandic heavyweights have been down that road, making it one of the less remarkable points in their larger risk-taking wheelhouse throughout the years. There has been some personnel developments in camp Sigur Ros’ since last summer, with multi-instrumentalist Kjarten Sveinsson -- tiring of touring duties -- departing amicably, leaving just the trio of Jónsi Birgisson, Georg Hólm and Orri Páll Dýrason to carry on in their humblest state to date. Sigur Rós albums aren't a thing to take for granted regardless, becoming an event of sorts in the music world typically escalated by the lengthy gaps between each effort, so it’s both satisfying and surprising that despite recent switch-ups and only one year removed from Valtari, they’ve announced LP 7, Kveiker, due out June 18th on new home XL Recordings. Perhaps as a reaction to last year's lulling listen and having to compensate for their member count loss, its first listen "Brennisteinn" is the most defiantly gargantuan and damning thing from Iceland's finest to date (and yes, that counts everything off Takk considering there is nothing pretty about this one -- and AS means that in the best way possible. It's Godspeed! on 'roids, beginning with a full load of heavy as Dýrason's drums and Hólm jacked bass lines grind through the opening moments like an epic sci-fi monster attack (a point which Andrew Huang's Super 8-styled video for the song is glad to hit home.) Jónsi's foreign falsetto is at the eye of the storm, but there's an ominous feel in what the frontman is singing out. What happened to all of those beautiful pictures we're used to hearing the nice Icelandic boys paint with their sound? They're nowhere to be here found in "Brennisteinn," as the trio is compensating for what they've loss with a huge overcast of evil looming and possessing their atmosphere. It's mean. It's aggressive. It's a brand new Sigur Ros, for the better, that wildly hints at their willingness to finally accept their place among the upper echelon of great big, arena-sized rock bands.

Directed by: Andrew Huang

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