If you know me personally, you already know how hard I ride for anything coming out of the Icelandic metal scene these days. Ever since my first taste of Svartidaudi’s menacing and psychedelic Flesh Cathedral I have been obsessing over the tremendous amount of quality output of this relatively small scene. From the crushing riffs of Sinmara, the jazzy death metal tinged nuances of newcomers Zhrine, to the new darlings of the metal world Misthyrming it seems that Iceland can do no wrong these days. Enter Endalok — a band with a sound as mysterious as their persona — who keep this tradition of excellence alive on their debut demo Englaryk.
While many similar bands may eschew subtlety in favor of a more in-your-face approach, Endalok separate themselves from the pack by favoring a more ethereal sound. This is one of the rare instances where demo quality production actually works in the band’s favor. The four songs contained on Englaryk possess a wispy quality and are full of murky charm. The vocals are of particular note here; buried deep and veiled behind a wash of chiming reverb, they serve as more of an accent than the focal point of the songs.
Even more interesting than the sounds contained on Englaryk is how the band makes use of the absence of sound as a tool. The expected dissonant notes and chords often ring out into silence, and rather than leaning on blasting drums the songs often make use of dirge-like tempos to set the mood. Despite the dense use of reverb on certain parts of Englaryk the album never feels overcrowded and there are very often moments of contemplative breath found in these songs. This is a crash course in making a statement using the spaces between notes over a barrage of aggression.
All in all, Endalok have put out one of the best demos with Englaryk that I have heard all year. This is everything you could love about Icelandic black metal. In addition it features many elements that might surprise you. If you’re looking for something new from their neck of the woods, this is the album for you.