Sigur Ros - KveikurBy Cory Zydyk

The music of Sigur Rós evokes images of glaciers, rivers, and ancient misty topped mountain ranges. I will never forget listening to Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust, their 2008 release, while driving the highway to Tofino – a small community located at the very western edge of Vancouver Island. The drive showcases an unrivalled display of natural beauty. Rocky, wild mountains dominate, while far below the Kennedy River rushes violently through a narrow canyon. The river eventually drains into Kennedy Lake, which is a vast, uninhabited body of water extending into the horizon like an ocean. Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust fit this landscape like a glove: the acoustic guitar and piano, with driving but simple percussion, coupled with Jonsi’s soaring falsetto, gave the landscape not only an added mysticism, but the music became my way of communicating with the place – of becoming spiritual brethren with it.

Sigur Rós’ next release, Valtari, was a different animal. With Valtari, the band embraced their ambient influences and wrote a slow burning tone-poem of an album. It still sung with a wild primeval energy, but this energy was of a still, misty ocean in the morning and of calm, windless nights.

Kveikur, the band’s latest release, is so good I bought it twice. This is an album for stormy nights and crashing waves; for volcanic eruptions and natural turmoil. The music is – dare I say it – angry. Doom inspired Brennisteinn”, opens with distorted bass and guitars being played in ominous, down tuned whole notes. The finest song on this album, Isjaki displays wonderful call and answer vocal harmonies, recalling the vocal work on Valtari, but done with a new-found life. The band plays with a straight-on, urgent style that was lacking in the meandering approach of their last few albums. In fact this album doesn’t meander at all – no song breaks that eight minute mark, which is rare for Sigur Rós.

Photo: Sigur Rós Instagram
Photo: Sigur Rós Instagram

Despite common conceptions of the band releasing slow post-rock albums, Sigur Rós has always shown flairs of being a heavy band. My favorite release of theirs, “()”, has heavy, awe-inspiring moments in almost every one of its untitled tracks. Yet, Kveikur feels different. The old, melodic grandeur of Sigur Rós has been pushed to the background, while rhythm and a dark mood has been emphasized. It instead pushes forward without optimism for the future. The compositions feel simple for Sigur Rós, not even coming close to the complexity of past albums, or even Jonsi’s solo pop-inspired Go”. Kveikur, then, is a barebones Sigur Rós firing on all cylinders. If the slow, ambient Valtari is the ashes of Sigur Rós, then Kveikur is the band rising like a phoenix. Sigur Rós is back, and not only that – they’ve evolved.