The Icelandic Black Metal titans Sinmara have ploughed up the Nordic Black Metal scene with their signature brand of darkly bombastic Black Metal with relentlessly confronting lyrics often building upon mystical and mythological influences. Founded in 2013, the band released their now canonical first album ‘Aphotic Womb’, with two splits together with Icelandic fellow musicians Mysþyrming, as well as the iconic underground bands Sortilegia, I I and Almyrkvi respectively. 2017 witnessed the release of their truly magickal EP ‘Within the Weaves of Infitnity’ – and now, finally, Sinmara are about to release their second full-length record ‘Hvísl Starnanna’ (‘Whispering Stars’). We gave it a spin, so let’s have a closer look at what to expect from the very far North!
The first track Apparitions starts off mysteriously, veiled in a near-ambient sound with the guitars quickly and powerfully taking over. The background emits a ghostly soughing, and tension is immediately built up with the drums alternating between warm-blooded rhythms and minimalist fillers. This intriguing variation nevertheless manages to tie everything together somehow, we are invited to follow an interesting bass line in the background as well as hypnotic guitars pacing up and down melodic scales before the vocals finally set in. The instrumentals captivate the listener with their crystal-clear sound, with the voice being en par with the instruments sound-wise, which conveys a strong impression that all elements of this musical piece, and the entire record to follow, are crucial: Clarity and obscurity are perfectly balanced, and it is safe to say that Reykjavík’s Studio Emissary, at which the album was recorded, sure knows how to make Icelandic Black Metal sound good (let’s just quickly recall aural gems such as Svartidauði‘s ‘Flesh Cathedral’, Almyrkvi‘s ‘Pupil of the Searing Maelstrom’ and Auðn‘s ‘Farvegir Fyrndar’, just to name a few). In this opening track, we sternly and calmly pace forward through the chaos, and encounter beautifully subtle melodic layerings on our way.
Next up, Mephitic Haze starts of with a wall of evil and simultaneously hazy guitar sound orchestrating memorable leitmotifs, soon moving into a harmonious alternation between vocal parts and instrumentals answering each other. The guitar melodies, however, permeate the track in its entirety and enchant the listener with their space-filling yet intangibly distant sorcery. The song ends as if caught in a dream, with synthy sounds and guitars trickling as if the first raindrops of a storm dispersing when hitting the earth.
When moving into The Arteries of Withered Earth we realise that there may be no quenching rainfall to come after all; a driving drum beat pushes everything forward in a carried tempo, with the rhythm-focussed and straight-forward riffing creating a sense of disturbance and chaos due to their vast and unfathomable sound. We appear to get carried away in a current of streaming sound that, however, does not bring the auspicious rain to the withered earth but rather a sense of urgency.
The fourth track Crimson Stars is off to another slow and menacing start in order to build up a fabric of see-through yet hazily opaque sound. The vocals on this one are especially mighty, in perfect synchrony with intriguing guitar melodies moving from only moderate surfacing from rhythmic riffing to highly sparkling notes like stars briefly uncovered in an overcast night sky. The entire musical make-up of the song pays an impressively synaesthetic homage to the title. Overall, the sound convinces with bombastic and sinister radiance, leaving the listener feeling small and insignificant – especially during the soft ambient outro whispering like ice-cold wind.
Coming second to last, Úr Kaleik Martraða creates the perfect succession to the unsettling quiet of the previous track, with powerful and surprisingly bittersweet drum hits melting into fading chords. Even though the song speaks of nightmares, it seems as if we were transported into a vast, obscurely majestic dream world, an intangible fortress of sound playing with the same slow chord and drum hits of the beginning of the song. The shortly but all the more brightly shining melodic guitar passages magically seem to evoke the pristine yet piercing sound of early-90s Death melodies (Voice of the Soul from ‘The Sound of Perseverance’, anyone?). At last, the mesmerising fully instrumental passages work with a more dissonant and less bright distortion that slowly moves us into uneasy dreams, supported by a slight decrescendo at the end that seamlessly carries us into the finale, the title track Hvísl Stjarnanna. We instantly get captivated by magickally soft yet forceful rhythms, the vocals set in at the perfect moment once the string instruments have created a melancholy and solemn tension and the drums really manage to both push the song forward and yet to keep it weightlessly afloat at the same time. Bright glimpses of light of ever so quick and high-pitched guitar notes are intricately weaved into the soundscape; hence the track passes by like as if experienced in a place just beneath consciousness. Towards the last third, we slow down into a darkly euphoric passage both building up and releasing tension, eventually flowing into a last gasp of the perfect symbiosis of calm yet powerful rhythm, as well as delicate yet haunting polyphonic melodies. All sounds amalgamate before slowing down at last, leaving us with a threatening and unidentifiable shred of piercing sound as well as unsettling rhythmic throbbing – and silence.
In short: If you are a fan of vast and hypnotic soundscapes and titillating Black Metal, listen to the stars whisper on this iconic new record.
Listen to the album HERE!