Black metal is perhaps one of the most polarizing genres in all of extreme music. From the wretched vocals, corpse paint, and antics of many bands, to the sonic quality (or lack thereof) of the music itself, no one is without an opinion on this brand of metal. While plenty of bands stick to the rules set by the progenitors of the style, there have been many acts that take black metal to new places sonically and eschew some of the more divisive trappings of the past. Auðn lands somewhere between these two groups and does so without coming across as fence-straddling. Hailing from Iceland, this black metal outfit is back with their sophomore effort Farvegir Fyrndar, out November 10th on Season of Mist.
As stated above,Auðn is a black metal band that does things a little differently, and this is an approach that I welcome. Much like Wolves In The Throne Room, they don’t wear corpse paint or dress in traditional black metal garb. In fact, their promo photos show them wearing suits. Musically, they manage to differentiate themselves even more. Songs by Auðn tend to fall somewhere between atmospheric and epic, but without tipping the scale too far in either direction. Essentially, this is black metal that breathes. Just listen to the opening track of Farvegir Fyrndar, “Verold Hulin”:
With drums like this leading off the record, you know right away that this isn’t your granddaddy’s black metal. The tribal beat and the fat tone are almost antithetical to traditional black metal. Then come the guitars. Then after three minutes of lovely instrumentation, we get the vocal onslaught. It’s perfection. As it bounces back and forth between a wail and a wretch, I realized that I was cold and wandering on the side of a snowy mountain.
As I got deeper into the record, I noticed a theme throughout the composition of many of the tracks. That theme is dynamics. Nearly every song toyed with tempo, tone, and rhythm. While some tracks such as “Lífvana Jörð” had the pedal down more often, there wasn’t a one-dimensional composition to be heard on Farvegir Fyrndar. It should also be noted that Auðn aren’t afraid to make some genuinely beautiful music. “Skuggar” is a good example of this. This is a sonic space that some blackgaze bands such as Heretoir will operate in, but it’s far-flung territory for a more traditional-leaning act to attempt and succeed in.
So let’s get to some kind of verdict about this record. As you can tell, I like Farvegir Fyrndar, and one of these days I’ll be able to pronounce it correctly. There is simply a lot to love about the record: the songs, the production, the dynamics. While this isn’t progressive black metal per se, it pushes boundaries with genuine respect for the genre. I wouldn’t have minded a little more boundary pushing, but I think that in this case, that’s just my curious nature. Farvegir Fyrndar is a very listenable, likable record that purists will be hard pressed to critique. Auðn have made one of the best black metal records of the year. You really shouldn’t miss it.
Notable Tracks: “Skuggar”; “Prisund”; “Verold Hulin”
FFO: Pillorian, Throane, Wolves In The Throne Room