Welcome to my first review of 2018. This year, we’re getting things kicked off with Hamferð‘s Támsins likam. After receiving numerous accolades, including stints touring with acts as respected as Amorphis and winning the 2012 Wacken Festival Battle of the Bands contest, Hamferð have signed to Metal Blade records, and are now set to debut to the wider public their brand of stately death/doom that illuminates the hidden cultural gem of the Faroe Islands.
Because of just how tied into the culture of their homeland Hamferð are, some background information on the Faroe Islands is necessary to get the full impact of what is offered on Támsins likam. The Faroe Islands are a small, cold, and rocky island nation equidistant from the coasts of Norway and Scotland. Despite being a country of only around 50,000 people, the Faroe Islands boasts a rich cultural heritage, including its own language (Faroese) and it’s own state church (The Church of the Faroe Islands). In fact, the word “Hamferð” itself is a Faroese word referring to the epiphanies experienced by the families of sailors who are swept out to sea and drowning, their dying loved ones appearing as ghostly apparitions before them as an omen.
All of these factors, from culture and mythology to the physical geography of the Faroe islands, creeps its way into the songs on Támsins likam. If the grim origins of the band’s name were to give you any clue, the music contained on this album is somber and truly funereal, with mournful melodies crafted by guitar, piano, and the soaring clean singing of vocalist Jón Aldará balancing out crushing doom metal passages. Its the small touches, though, that make Támsins likam a unique work among other funeral doom albums. The drumming on “Stygd” has a tribal feel that always seems to me to recall ancestors around a fire, keeping the oral tradition of storytelling alive through song, and the sparse passages in “Frostharv” and “Fylgisflog” paint a picture of the windswept, vast geography the Faroese call home.
More than simply being satisfyingly heavy and beautifully morose, Támsins likam is an experience for the insight it gives into a history that might otherwise be overlooked. Like their fellow countrymen (and now labelmates) in Týr, Hamferð tap into a rich cultural vein to draw influence for their lyrical and musical themes, yet the filtering of this through the lens of death/doom makes for a unique approach to folk-themed metal, and one that is hugely successful in its application. Támsins likam is an album that enthusiasts of funeral doom and folk metal alike would do well not to miss.