The music of the Icelandic group Dynfari traverses treacherous ground, like exploring the areas around active volcanoes. On their powerfully compelling new record Myrkurs er þörf, the group presents “An introspection on thoughts of suicide and self-destruction” and an exploration of “the essence of bleakness and suffering defeat from the shackles of your own mind,” according to the record’s Bandcamp page.
Setting Down the Musical Foundation
The foundational material for the record feels inescapably intense, and Dynfari handle these heated musical coals with what sounds like fine-tuned care. Myrkurs er þörf hinges on powerful, extremely weighted melodies that lay across the album’s surface like a thick, suffocating cloud of fog, forcing focus on some of the immediately surrounding emotional area.
“From the beginning, we have in our creative process strived for making music that moves people in some way, and in that sense expressed ourselves and touched on topics that are often difficult to talk about in general,” the band’s multi-talented Jóhann Örn explains. “We did not have any pre-established guiding principles, but we did decide to develop the musical arrangements in more collaboration as a full band than we have done in the past.”
Dynfari perform a sort of blackened post-metal, with a strong, expansive metal foundation overlaid with flourishes of some real physical and emotional intensity. Their music feels rather riff-centric, and for good reason, since their performances pack a lot of somberly majestic, innately compelling power. The riffing builds like flames streaking across an icy terrain.
Track one, called “Dauðans dimmu dagar,” feels heavy but quite contemplatively structured, with a slower, solemn tempo underpinning the formidable weight. Track two kicks into a slightly brisker pace, while maintaining the air of solemn contemplation that underpinned the introductory song. The whole album carries a feeling of standing in the shadow of some kind of ominously majestic formation. In the real, physical world, this experience might take the form of a rock-climbing event, but applied emotionally, the music feels like venturing into shadowy emotional recesses.
“It was clear from the songwriting process that this album would be very personal, as the creative process came from a need to express some of the darkest and most difficult of human emotions, of depressive and self-destructive behavior,” Örn shares. “There were issues to deal with, loose ends to tie up and doors to close. This general theme was not decided beforehand, it came naturally as a part of the process.”
Track three on Dynfari’s latest record continues down the path of billowing clouds of heavy but decidedly not overwhelming riffing. The rhythms feel wracked with a kind of seeping pain, but the music also feels consistently powerful, as if confronting and wrestling with the pain within the music’s experience.
As the album proceeds, the music hits hard — the slower tempos and persistent movement build a feeling of subtly enrapturing boldness within the music, as if the smoothly majestic progressions reflect urgent pleas for some kind of relief. The soul-rending music seems to capture moments of tearing through emotional garments, kneeling in the rain, and clutching the earth. The emotional urgency in the somber rhythms — like the mournfully heavy hits of “Ég tortímdi sjálfum mér” — feels inescapable.
“We really wanted to end this album on a strong note in more than one sense,” Örn explains. “Although bleakness, melancholy and frustration is perhaps a very dominant mood of the album, in the exploration of the topic of suicide and self-destruction we wanted to make a firm statement in refusing to succumb to such states of mind. There is always a way up from the abyss, even if one cannot see it.”
“I have not specifically thought about it in such a way, but I do see some truth in it,” Örn adds, discussing the question of whether he’s found a level of personal catharsis with the music. “A creative endeavor such as this can be an outlet to deal with difficult times. Personally, I think I am at my most creative when I am going through something challenging. I guess Dynfari has been a sort of catharsis for me in creative expression, for expressing that which is maybe not normally expressed to an audience of strangers. My hope is that the music may provide listeners with some connection or moving impact.”
Formulating the Impact
Overall, the album packs rich dynamics, but none of these dynamic variations quite get to any kind of total escape from tension. Lyrics on “Peripheral Dreams” seem to aptly capture the mood, when Örn sings: “No one ever told me/ Grief felt so like fear/ Consumed by anger and hatred/ No one can take away your pain.” This emotional complication, struck through by a unifying force of chest-clutching desperation, shines brightly here. “Peripheral Dreams” in particular begins with a couple of minutes of scorching blast beats before moving into slower, soul-wrenching rhythms. Here, as elsewhere, the band presents their raw desperation in every moment, no matter the level of physical intensity — and at every moment, the foundational musical power feels moving.
“For many years we have taken inspiration from various post-rock acts and we have been vocal about some notable bands that I see as influences, such as This Will Destroy You and Mogwai,” Örn shares. “I think that influence showed especially on our Four Doors album, but also on Myrkurs er þörf to an extent. Personally I have also been into ambient and downtempo recently and perhaps there is a tiny bit of influence from there found on our new album as well.”
Connections via live performances are an important part of the Dynfari experience. “We had planned to perform the album in (near) full at Roadburn 2020, as well as a separate special Four Doors set,” Örn notes. “The global pandemic thwarted those plans as well as any plans for a release concert, so it looks like 2020 will be the first year in Dynfari’s history without a single live performance. We do hope to return to the stage once the situation allows and perform again for a live audience.”
Listen to Myrkurs er þörf below!