Review: Altari ‘Kröflueldar’

Back in 1975, a nine-year series of eruptions called Kröflueldar occurred in Krafla, North Iceland. The occurrence later became what the Icelandic black metal act Altari named their debut album after. Erupting ferociously via the mighty Finland label Svart Records (that has released a myriad of impeccable underground names such as Seremonia, Beherit, and Hexvessel) on April 14th, Altari presents a thirty-five-minute vehemently blazing performance that appears to be a representation of the constant threat of ash that they live under.

Altari 'Kröflueldar'
Altari ‘Kröflueldar’ Artwork

The reason why they decided on Kröflueldar as the title is that the creative process of the scalding-nuanced album took almost nine years to create – nearly the same timespan as the said series of eruptions. Besides being produced by the band themselves, Iceland-based Irish producer Stephen Lockhart also took part in co-producing Kröflueldar – mind you, Lockhart has worked with several great names in the Icelandic black metal scene such as Auðn and Sinmara before, and even – outside of black metal – the legendary neo-classical composer Ólafur Arnalds! So of course, I have great expectations for this album.

Throughout the years, the black metal scene in Iceland has indeed been receiving rather less exposure than the ones of its Nordic counterparts of Norway and Sweden, but just because it is rarely highlighted, it doesn’t mean the Icelandic scene has lesser great names around. They certainly have renowned gnarly units creating soul-crushing sounds here and there, some of them being Misþyrming, Almyrkvi, Svartidauði, and Naðra. And recently, the up-and-coming Altari joined the cult to present their finest and purest form of brimstone as they reach their full potential through their sounds.

Kröflueldar is certainly a material suitable for fans of acts like Blut Aus Nord and Craft, or even their more well-known Icelandic counterparts Misþyrming and Sinmara, but this album is also beyond versatile, that the listeners can as well immediately sense experimental and avant-garde elements at first listen, besides being strong on black metal elements.

they take the cacophony of black metal sounds to the next level…

Influences like Blue Öyster Cult, Interpol, and Killing Joke took an integral part in helping Altari manifest their desire to find some balance between overdriven rhythms and melodic, yet clean leads – and thus, they manifested that balance-laden aspiration in the form of a clean guitar sound used throughout. Not limiting their influences to the said three bands, they also incorporated influences from classic metal bands like Judas Priest as the quintessential foundation of their sounds.

Leðurblökufjandinn appears to be a track that emphasizes its interplay between melody and disharmony, almost discordant, that it gives off brief reminiscences of bands like Voivod, Virus and Sonic Youth with all its sound clashes. Meanwhile, the song Sýrulúður, which features vocals from Gyða Margrét, is rather delicate and subtle, while also keeping dark atmospheres intact. It’s one of the songs that will instantly remind its listeners of experimental rock bands like This Mortal Coil or even Cocteau Twins.

Overall, Kröflueldar does wonders as a thirty-five-minute trenchant sonic eruption; raw and bewildering at the same time, they take the cacophony of black metal sounds to the next level by combining them with eclectic avant-garde and experimental wilderness. Bearing similar vibes to Misþyrming’s Söngvar elds og óreiðu era, it appears to be some eruption-driven mayhem in its purest form.

Label: Svart Records
Band Links: Bandcamp | Instagram

Scribed by: Ralka Skjerseth