Release year: 2015
Sito web: –

Yes: there is plenty of epos in the full-length record “Með vættum” by the Reykjavík band Skálmöld. It is clear to see from the album artwork conceived by the artist Ásgeir Jón Ásgeirsson, whose topics are long ships struggling on stormy waves, sea-​serpents writhing as in Samuel Taylor Coleridge (17721834) poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, and silhouettes of wights looming in the distance.
There is something epic also in the way I got my copy of “Með vættum”. My friend Silvia took it to me as a souvenir when she flew back from a trip to Iceland shortly after the earthquake that shook the Scandinavian nation last November. Her staying had been quite brisk: shock waves had just calmed down, as she visited the waterfalls, the geysers and the faults of the Gullni Hringurinn Natural Park.
In the meantime, she visited the “Lucky Records” store in Reykjavík too, where she bought the record for me, while a dozen kilometres faraway a volcano-alarm had just been issued. It reminds me something like Frodo Baggins’ adventures, don’t you agree?

Iceland deserves such passionate enthusiasm, anyway. Its natural beauties easily arouse curiosity. The «five thousand feet high» extinct volcano Snæffels made such an impression on the Nantes novelist Jules Verne (18281905), that he decided to place in the no longer active crater the threshold to the fantastic prehistoric world of his literary masterpiece “Journey to the Centre of the Earth”, published in 1864.

Moving on to Icelandic historical themes, we find out something amazing again: indeed the first parliament of medieval Europe, the “Alþingi”, was summoned in Iceland in 930 AD. Independence marked the country history for almost three centuries, until a long period of civil wars ended up with the Scandinavian island subjection to the Norwegian crown in 12621264. The last decades before the loss of self-government were significant for Iceland also from the literary point of view, because one protagonist of the internal struggles, the learned politician Snorri Sturluson (11781241), wrote an essay on pre-Christian Nordic poetics entitled “Edda”, which has been for centuries the best-known book among Norse literature treasures.

Just think what would result from an art expression that linked together the breath-taking landscapes, the historical path and the middle-age literature heritage of the Island of Ice and Fire. This is exactly the topic of both “Með vættum” and the whole Skálmöld discography.
The Reykjavík band forges in fact its personal formula of heavy metal with the same themes that inspired Snorri Sturluson, and sets its compositions among the cliffs, the lava plains, and the mountain ranges of its native island, arousing through music the same sensations that can be felt while crossing those places.
For example, “Með vættum” seventh track “Að Vetri” mentions the Snæffels crater, and puts the stress on rendering details like the creaking of frozen earth under steps, or the warmth of makeshift rags against a blizzard. Such effort is also emphasized by the constant repetition of the verse «Það snjóar, það snjóar» (“It’s snowing, it’s snowing”). Although the Skálmöld imagination leitmotifs are often based on fantastic myths, they do not forget the real Icelandic land where those myths grew and rooted. Therefore, you should not be surprised if the cover artworks on the band records portrayed real, recognizable landscapes of the Scandinavian island. Take as examples the bleak frozen view of the Skálmöld fifth full-length album “Sorgir”, or the valley illustrated on the cover image of its successor “Ydalir”.
Surely, the Icelandic scholar Jón Árnason (18191888), who gathered and wrote the first systematic collection of folk tales from his homeland, would have regarded these two illustrations as perfectly suitable to match his pages of “Galdrasögur” (“Stories of magic”), “Náttúrusögur” (“Stories about nature”), “Helgisögur” (“Legends”), etc.

It is in fact easy to see how Skálmöld are truly “heirs in music” of Jón Árnason‘s work: like him, the Reykjavík musicians prevent the ancient stories of the Scandinavian Island from fading away «like Autumn Skarifífill plants», as Jón Sigurðsson (18111879), one of the main promoters of Icelandic independence, feared.
Paolo Crugnola