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Almyrkvi - Umbra Award winner

by Lauren Fonto at 25 January 2018, 7:26 AM

ALMYRKVI’s two members are also part of SINMARA, one of Iceland’s notable black metal exports. This is their first full-length album. One of the reasons I enjoy atmospheric black metal is its ability to transport me away from the mundanities of everyday life. “Umbra” is a dreamscape of an album with multiple layers to discover.

A notable strength of this album is the way the musicians weave an atmosphere that commands attention. I felt that the production was ideal, with all the elements being given maximum space to expand.  The repeating aural motifs (such as the chimes) add a sense of cohesiveness to the album, and link the overall theme without getting monotonous.

When the band goes big, it goes supernova. But the moments of quiet are just as powerful. On “Vaporous Flame”, a quiet interlude with echoing chimes gives the track a reflective quality, which contrasts effectively with the storm of blast beats and clean electric guitar notes which follow it. A strong doom metal influence comes through on “Forlorn Astral Ruins”. The harmonised guitar riffs lend an air of grandiosity, and the clean vocal harmonies are enchanting. Ethereal clean riffs contrast effectively with the heavy undertones, and add an air of melancholy. Eerie effects and what sounds like chanting end off the track on a mysterious note.

“Stellar Wind of the Dying Star” opens with sinister synth effects which build up tension until the storm bursts with the introduction of the black metal elements. Counter-melodies swirl around each other in a thick fog of sound, thus building layers of atmosphere. The clean vocals follow a similar melody to the main riff, which works very well. This behemoth of a number is one of the highlights of the album. “Cimmerian Flame” is a strong follow-up, and opens with spooky low chants, interesting tom fills and lively cymbals. A mid-tempo section takes a turn into doom metal territory, with stormy guttural vocals. A seeming end leads to an explosive section, with the higher notes adding to a sense of chaos. The low chants (and sounds reminiscent of “unearthly beings”) provide a haunting end to the track.

“Umbra” is a beautifully-done album, and I wish that I’d heard it before the end of 2017. I think that I’ll be returning to this release multiple times to uncover more of its layers.

Songwriting: 8
Originality: 9
Memorability: 8
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

1. Vaporous Flame
2. Forlorn Astral Ruins
3. Severed Pillars of Life
4. Stellar Wind of the Dying Star
5. Cimmerian Flame
6. Fading Hearts of Umbral Nebulas
Bjarni Einarsson – Drums
Gar∂ar S. Jónsson – Vocals, guitars, bass, synthesizers
Record Label: Ván Records


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Edited 03 February 2023

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