Icelandic/German three-piece Árstíðir lífsins (Icelandic for “The Seasons of Life”) are back with a new album, Aldafǫðr ok munka dróttinn (Ván Records); an expansive, sprawling exploration of Icelandic history and culture.
This is the third record from the pagan Black Metal outfit – Árni (Drums, Viola, Cello, Vocals), Marsél (Vocals), Stefán (Guitars, Bass, Piano, Vibraphone, Vocals) – in five years, and while it reportedly explores the era of Christian conversion of Iceland circa 1000AD, you’ll be hard pressed to know it. The album is “sung entirely in Old Norse-Icelandic, with added Skaldic verses from the Icelandic sagas.”
This double-disc affair is packed with tracks that rarely clock-in at less than eight minutes long; each track is packed with enough style and time changes to fill a dozen “Kvlt” black metal outfits. The music swings from folky acoustics and haunting ambiance to raw blast beats and even death metal. The vocals range from spoken word and choirs to screeching howls, often within layers of the same song. Epic but never overly bombastic, every track is intricate, dense and atmospheric. The mood is mostly bleak and sombre but rarely strays in monotony or tedium, which is impressive given the length and complexity of what’s on show.
Authenticity is a big part of this album. While some acts that base themselves on the history and mythology of Scandinavia can often stray into easy stereotypes, this feels like a living history lesson. At 80 minutes, Aldafǫðr ok munka dróttinn is a big investment that requires your attention to be fully appreciated. But those willing to put the effort it, Árstíðir lífsins will reward with an epic listen.