SKURK – BLÓÐBRAGÐ

“The overwhelming spectrum of styles and surprising levels of coherence, the dualism of light and dark, fast and slow, melodic and dissonance is truly striking.”

GENRE: Thrash Metal (and beyond)
LABEL: Inconsistency Records
RUNNING TIME: 69:11
COUNTRY: Iceland
YEAR: 2017
LINK: Skurk

TRACKLIST:

  1. Eymd
  2. Refsing
  3. Mjøll
  4. Aflausn
  5. Sálmyrkvi
  6. Feigur
  7. Røkkvar
  8. Vitjun
  9. Endir
  10. Blóðbragð

“I hate and I love. Why I do this, perhaps you ask? I do not know, but I feel it happening and I am tortured.”

It might be a long stretch, but the words penned by Roman poet Gaius Valerius Catullus, can be applied as a musical nexus point for Skurk on their near seventy-minute opus “Blóðbragd”. The overwhelming spectrum of styles and surprising levels of coherence, the dualism of light and dark, fast and slow, melodic and dissonance is truly striking. Here’s hoping though, that no one suffered an ill-fated ending after the two-year session it took to complete the album.

It does say “thrash metal” in “genre”. The band may have been a pure thrash metal band back in the early nineties. Add over two decades and the story is quite different. There’s been a lot of experimentation in the group since reforming post 2010. The lines have been blurred anyways, but there’s still a definite thrash foundation.

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Blóðbragð – Artwork credit: Guðni Konráðsson

The four-minute acoustic omen comes unexpected before “Refsing” really gives the listener a taste of the traditional aspects of Skurk anno 2017. Metallica, Slayer, Machine Head… all reasonable references. Fast paces, groove sections, guitar hero moments, it’s all in place and particularly well executed in the track “Sálmyrkvi”. The vocals might be an acquired taste, if you’re used to the smooth, ethereal quality of recent Sólstafir, you know, those solemn descriptions of nature and inner turmoil, just saying.

The opposite side of the coin, the part that keeps and elevates the album’s dualism, are the classical influences. Violins, violas and cellos adorn tracks like “Aflausn”, the fifteen minute tour de force title track (prog approved!) and the more eclectic styling of “Vitjun”. There’s also classical singing styles featured in the form of soprano and tenor vocals, adding a dramatic effect to some of the epic tracks.

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Skurk – Photo credit: Linda Òlafsdóttir

Like I said, “thrash metal” is a cheap label to begin with in the case of Skurk. There’s textures, prog epicness, old school toughness, I could go on and on… and beyond the unimaginative artwork, “Blóðbragð” is a huge body of work that has a lot to offer. There are other things to google than Icelandic black metal!

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