It was halfway through the evening‘s music when I kept thinking of two pieces published by our paper. The first being last week’s news item on a report that Iceland’s youth was becoming “more conservative,” the other being a think piece from Haukur Már Helgason from last June stating that young Icelandic people were slowly ditching culture to become a nation of orange skinned, style obsessed proto fascists. And looking at the young hip bands that were playing on tonight’s bill, never has that rung more true.
But first, let’s rewind to the start and the opening band, LOVE DEMONS. As I entered Gaukurinn, I clocked several of the Icelandic metal scene’s finest hanging around. You’ve got the likes of the lead singer from Beneath, the drummer from Sólstafir, and the organiser of Eistnaflug in the crowd. I wondered, “Why the hell are they all here?” but this became apparent when Love Demons cranked up their first song as their bass player/singer is also the front man for angry southern metal band Otto Katz Orchestra. Here though he is a wearing a different musical suit as Love Demons played straight up bleak, pounding new wave inspired music, heavy on the gothic bass, light on the chilly post-punk synths. He certainly had the voice and feel down pat, with his features obscured by shades and downturned hat as he sang his morose low end vocals. While they were certainly too forceful and loud to be considered icy and fragile, Love Demons were a pleasant surprise, and definitely worth checking out in the future.
Man, RetRoBot crack me up. As they charged through the songs from their ‘Blackout’ EP’, a thought suddenly pops into my head. Their singer (The one who sounds like a drunken club singer version of Morrissey) actually looks like… a young Jakob Frímann Magnússon! My god! Then many things become clear to me. When you actually listen to their songs, they talk about how shallow, empty and rubbish society is, obsessed with drinking, partying and casual sex (because that’s so boring, right?). And yet they look and sound exactly like the thing that they purport to hate. I don’t know, maybe it’s all rather Meta or Über ironic, or something. But I wouldn’t mind them being so straight edge so much if their songs weren’t so woefully poor. Their vocals parts are all over the place, especially on the opening couple of songs, the clunky beat change on “Dancing Away From The Bombs” still grates. And that rap piece on “Electric Wizard”…. yeah…
I am though required by law and some sense of balance to acknowledge that the place was full for these guys, and most people really seemed to like them. I know this because at one point, when the band did the “Hey everyone, we want you to sit down on the ground!” schtick, everyone SAT ON THE GROUND! It was nice to see the Millgram Experiment being portrayed so effectively.
LOCKERBIE are up next and I found them melodic and perky, yet ultimately hollow and depressing. Like an Inspired By Iceland marketing executive’s wet dream, every song they played sounded like an off cast from Sigur Rós circa ‘Með Suð Í Eyrum…’ at one point mentioning how they were “So glad to be back in Iceland” after their European tour, which was nice until you realised that tour was only a week long! But again, they are happy and smiley (I have to admit that piano player was pulling some exquisite gurns), which is what the now full venue expected and demanded from them.
Compared to the two previous examples of callow youth, HELLVAR have definitely been round the block a few times and had a feel of an indie rock version of The Expendables (To emphasise this point, here’s a lovely video of a young Heiða Hellvar singing back in the ‘90s with the band Unun!). This may seem snarky, but there’s a point to this. Despite their “experience,” they rocked with more attitude, balls, desire, and played as if their lives DEPENDED ON IT, than people who were nearly half their age. And because they were such committed pros, they were actually ready 10 minutes early and managed to get an extra song in their set! True, some parts of their set music lacked finesse (their band member Gary The Laptop finally committed hara kiri on stage, forcing the band to drop their electro parts), but when they managed to hit the high end two part harmonies on “Falsetto,” it almost made my hairs stand on end.
And talking of attitude, when Krummi let out a wounded lion of a yell on “Amazon War,” at the beginning of LEGEND’s set then you knew that something was going to go down. Man, they were terrific, even when they had to completely start over the first song after a serious equipment failure. Krummi (who by now has lost the hat and most of his hair and is sporting rags and war paint) was pacing, lurching and rocking with a firmly clenched jaw of malevolence, looking like he just walked off from “Mad Max 2.” This gave their grand gothic electro rock an extra edge, a sense of purpose. For most of their set, I found myself by the front, also swaying and rocking to tracks such as “Runaway Train,” and new track “Virgin” (which sees them make good on their promise that their mew material will be darker and harder). Kids, this is a case of music with real feeling and power, of DOING IT RIGHT, so you better be taking notes, OK?
The night’s set was wrapped up in smooth professional style with AGENT FRESCO. True, this band have their critics about how they play and sound (I’ve heard the word “pretentious” used many a time), but frankly they can get stuffed. Because with such a tight rhythm section, and when Arnór comes down and hits those power notes, there’s not that many on these shores that can touch it. Playing a mix of old and brand new material (“This song is so new, we’re shitting ourselves right now!”), there were some scary but interesting sounds coming from the stage. I think at one point Arnór made a noise that sounded like a an owl killing a cat (!), but the crowd are really going for it, showing they’ve moved on now by chanting along to “A Long Time Listening,” instead of “Eyes Of A Cloud Catcher.” Overall a job well done.