Icelandic black metal quintet, Mannveira, find comfort in obscurity and nihilism. 2014’s Von er Eitur EP and a split release with Ellorsith in 2016 are all they have in their back catalogue since forming in 2010. You can understand why people are calling Vítahringur a long-awaited debut album. At only five tracks and thirty-five minutes in length, you might ask if they’re short-changing you. But you’ll soon thank them for their mercy and consideration for your listening experience.
Let’s be clear: This is a miserable record that avoids melody with the same distrust as that zealous neighbour who still acts like you’ll give him Covid-19 if you get too close when putting the bins out for your weekly rubbish collection. At times, Vítahringur captivates, on other occasions it drags you into the morose slumber of a capricious person who contemplates suicide with no despair but only intrigue. The first track, ‘Ópin rjúfa þögnina’, mixes dark doom metal with dissonant chord-picking and agonising mid-range screams and switches to a faster two-beat drum pattern after a minute of unease. The singer (or screamer) could be raging against anything in his native tongue, but nobody can doubt his passion or pain. ‘Í köldum faðmi’ confirms that Mannveira’s purpose is to create the most unhinged and morbid music possible, even at the expense of metallic brutality and heavy guitar riffing. They avoid the repetition of tremolo guitars in favour of the discordant note choices of Schammasch and Wode. There’s not much structure, but it lacks nothing when it comes to curiosity.
Finding a balance between the ritualistic and the monotonous is the biggest challenge for any band that reside in this spectrum of noise. Mannveira are not always successful in negotiating this paradox. The title track reminds you that the ringing chord formation in the intro to Slayer’s ‘Seasons in the Abyss’ has an influence way beyond thrash metal. The bite of the guitar distortion is as mean as the bitter wind that lays siege to your window and blows your candles out with a wheezing intensity. But how many anxiety-ridden guitar frequencies can you stomach when the experience goes on for over eight minutes?
One cannot deny that Mannveira have their own death-doom hybrid sound with a post-black metal aesthetic. You’ll find no trace of pentatonic scales or anything approaching the extravagant technicality of modern metal on Vítahringur. Yet they produce some astonishing moments of transcendence on closing track, ‘Kverkatak eilífra martraða’. This is the song where you contemplate your departure from the corporeal world. The waves are crashing against the shore, your arms are up in the air, the spittle of the surf peppers your face. If it must end, then, let it be here, in this moment.
It might feel like one long song in the same key and be unrepentant in its determination to swallow you into the void, but Vítahringur is strong on artistic merit and short on indulgence. Mannveira understand the power of rituals yet remain unpredictable. It’s a paradox that should pique your attention.
Release Date: 02/07/2021
Record Label: Dark Descent Records
Standout tracks: Ópin rjúfa þögnina, Í köldum faðmi, Kverkatak eilífra martraða
Suggested Further Listening: Eclipser – Pages EP (2021), Muka – Patologija Poniznosti (2021), Åskog – Varþnaþer (2021)