In their native language of Icelandic, Árstíðir means “seasons”, and like the ever-changing seasons, the band’s musical stylings have never sat firmly in one singular camp. They’ve experimented with everything from Radiohead Indie Rock eccentricities to the melancholic elegance of latter day Sólstafir, and like their fellow countrymen and label mates, Árstíðir are able to effortlessly create a vivid but mysterious atmosphere.
What sets Nivalis (Season of Mist) apart from any Sólstafir release from the outset, however, is the overall fragile tone of the record and the staggering amount of melodic hooks. Nivalis means “snow” in Icelandic and with each track you can almost picture an individual snowflake drifting seamlessly in time with the melody. ‘Circus’ encapsulates this beautifully, as you can imagine the playful dance of falling snow with each delicate pluck of double bass and shimmering hum of cello.
The delicate mood that flows through the whole record is also reminiscent of the kind of gentle progressive rock that Katatonia displayed on Dead End Kings and, more appropriately, The Fall Of Hearts, The blend of neo-classical minimalism on Nivalis even echoes the same level of class as the sombre Dethroned and Uncrowned (all Peaceville), especially when you have songs like the heart-wrenchingly beautiful ‘Please Help Me’ and ‘Mute’.
The trio’s use of vocal harmonies is the jewel in the crown and their power shines through best on ‘Passion’ that closes the record. It’s distinct in that, unlike the majority of the record, it has a much more hopeful message and it’s delivered with a subtle fire that gave it the most apt title possible. The tribal drumming and gentle picked acoustic guitar give us a chance of pace and tempo, creating an indie folk ballad that Simon & Garfunkel would be envious of. The honesty in the lyrics and the growing, galloping rhythm almost evoke a spontaneous, campfire-like singalong, but with so much more warmth that you can practically hear and feel the crackle of the fire in front of you. That is until the sudden return of the tantalising strings that sweep you off your feet with romantic flair.
As the record ends, Árstíðir croon “I’ve been waiting for someone to say that my patience was worth all the way”, and it’s certainly true that if you’re patient and you give Nivalis your repeated attention, you will have a record that will warm your heart and soul all year round; no matter the season.