Sigur Rós

Written by Tom Williams

Kveikur reportedly marks the beginning of a more “aggressive” sound for Iceland’s Sigur Rós. It seems naive – though exciting – to predict that, after the success of their last two albums (perhaps their most accessible and “mainstream” to date), the band might fall back into relying solely on harsh, full-blown, Godspeed!-esque post-rock. Yet almost anything with rhythm would sound more energetic than the heart-wrenchingly sombre textures of 2012’s Valtari. Kveikur only expels its heavy post-rock tones in short bursts, as its dark undercurrents are cleverly balanced against the band’s ever-so-slight pop sensibilities.

It has been interesting to see how the increasing popularity of Sigur Rós has affected their sound post-Takk…, as well as how their intriguingly unassuming image has begun permeating popular culture. Even the band’s recent appearance on The Simpsons was a non-event in comparison to those of American groups who have previously made cameos; Sigur Rós didn’t steal any of Peter Frampton’s watermelon or play a punk version of Happy Birthday for Mr. Burns.

Watch: Sigur Rós – Brennisteinn

This quiet, gentle side to the band sat right in the foreground of Valtari, yet Kveikur recalls even more clearly the dark aesthetic of the group’s debut album, 1997’s Von. There’s a recurring tension created by the album’s attempts to balance the heavy, rolling and powerful percussion of Orri Páll Dýrason with the sweet, pop-inflected vocals of frontman Jón “Jónsi” Þór Birgisson.

Now a trio, following the departure of founding member Kjartan Sveinsson, Sigur Rós use this tension to great effect on Kveikur. Opening track Brennisteinn is one of the heaviest, most texturally dense pieces the band has ever created. It is immediately gripping, layered with the muddy fuzz bass of Georg Holm, Jónsi’s bowed guitar work and a momentous reverberating drum-line. For all its sonic and emotional power, though, Brennisteinn remains the central microcosm of Kveikur – it foreshadows an album with a dark undercurrent, yet one which can also revert to being elegant, soothing and ornate.

Watch: Sigur Rós – Kveikur

The pop tendencies which became so apparent on 2008’s Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust leak through Kveikur’s danceable art-rock. Tracks Ísjaki and Stormur both carry such momentum, driven by percussion but circling around Jónsi’s vocal hooks. The tone inevitably reverts with the start of the album’s title track. Whilst those relentless, rolling drum lines and distorted guitars remain central, there’s a tremendous sense of space created by such a texturally dense sound. A space which grows and grows only to beautifully self-destruct.

Don’t let the hauntingly dark cover-art throw you – Kveikur doesn’t just work in black and whites. This is an album with personality and an unassuming, bittersweet warmth. It may not be the most accessible release in the Sigur Rós discography, but it harks back to the sounds which buoyed their rise into popular music, and also revives the vitality and power of dense post-rock. The prospect of a whole album filled solely with “aggressive” tracks like Brennisteinn and Kveikur, whilst exciting, was an unlikely outcome, as it may have alienated more than a few new listeners – perhaps those introduced to the subtleties of Sigur Rós via The Simpsons. So let’s hope that any newcomers don’t tune-out mid-way through the explicit sting of Kveikur’s first track. What a waste that would be.

Watch: Sigur Rós – Ísjaki

Join Music Feeds on Facebook

More On Music Feeds


9 Tough Eurovision Acts Guy Sebastian Will Have To Beat To Bring Australia Glory

The countdown is on to the audiovisual glitter-bomb that is the Eurovision 2015 final.


Sticky Fingers Cancel All Remaining European Tour Dates

After recently cancelling a string of UK tour dates, Sydney’s alternative rock sons Sticky Fingers have announced they will be postponing the rest of their European tour so they can take some time off.

Music Videos

The Fjords – ‘All In’

Norwegian band The Fjords’ debut single All In is about love at first sight, but the song’s pretty frightening new music video turns that trope on its head with some brutal gun violence.


Watch Coldplay’s Star-Studded ‘Game Of Thrones: The Musical’

In support of the annual charity event Red Nose Day, Coldplay frontman Chris Martin has created a cheeky musical parody of HBO‘s much-loved and much-pirated Game Of Thrones, staring a slew of cast members.


Music Feeds Faves – 22/05/15

Each week the Music Feeds team picks a favourite song from the week that was, wraps it in a bunch of words, and presents it you.


Watch The Who Threaten To Cancel A Show Over Marijuana Smoke

The Who may be a legendarily loud rock and roll band, but the “sex, drugs and rock and roll” mantra might not be as fitting as it once was.

Around the web

This May Also Interest You