The flight from the States to Iceland is not a flight for the weak, or at least those who need a full eight hours of sleep. Several hours in the air doesn’t prepare the body for the adventure that awaits right outside when landing in Reykjavík. After a morning of exploring, swimming, and eating the first of many hot dogs from downtown Reykjavík, it was time to emerge into the Iceland Airwaves momentum…
Starting the night at 12 Tonár was Mr. Silla, Sigurlaug Gísladóttir of múm‘s solo project. In the small record store, attendees gathered around an intimate setup where Gísladóttir ran synth and backup tracks from the top of a piano bench. The small space could hardly contain the gigantic personality behind Mr. Silla’s performance. Her sorrowfully energetic tone echoed through the small room against ghostly tracks. As the recorded keys descended, Gísladóttir’s electric vocals ascended into a memorizing soprano melody. The only disappointment to the performance was the mood change that followed with Tyler Ludwick’s addition of live guitar. In opposing tones, Gísladóttir’s vocals and Ludwick’s guitar fought for attention instead of complementing each other. While Ludwick demonstrated his own talents in refreshing guitar riffs, the vocals and guitar tone frequently clashed. As tracks were added to the two’s instrumental battle, it transformed into a competition for the loudest sound. Typically, the track would win. Gísladóttir’s emotionally addictive performance was dampened by the contrasting personalities of live and recorded effects.
The familiar vocals of Ólafur Guðjónsson were lost in Sinmara‘s performance at Gaukurinn. Opening for many bands playing the stage, Sinmara proved to be nothing more than an opening act in their performance. In a chaotic mess of instrumentals, Guðjónsson’s vocals were lost within the bantering guitars of Þórir Garðarsson and Garðar S. Jónsson, and the aggressive drums of Bjarni Einarsson. Not only were the vocals missed in the chaos, but Stephen Lockhart’s influential bass from their release of Aphotic Womb disappeared in the live show, too. This mess of instrumentals caused confusion on when one song would end and the other would begin. The production quality mimicked the instrumental disaster through inaccurate timing, and strobing lights that went against the rhythm of every song. With these incidents, Sinmara’s show was solely entertainment for those waiting for the upcoming acts.
Gaukurinn was not short of talented metal musicians tonight. Reykjavík’s Mathcore group of In the Company of Men brought down the house with intense guitar riffs and melodic vocals. A.K. Andersen’s insane talents brought a range of high, airless screams to low, strong vocals. Þorsteinn Gunnar Friðriksson’s guitar brought to life the band’s Jazzcore influences through stereotypical jazz string-picking. Reflecting each other’s perfectly timed beats, the drums of Björn Rúnarsson and Samúel Örn Böðvarsson’s bass rhythmically showcased their exotic time signatures in the Mathcore style. The band as a whole also worked well in dramatic pauses in individual songs. Through their precise timing, In the Company of Men were able to echo silence throughout Gaukurinn before continuing to tear the air with their metal sounds. The production for the set was just as well performed as the band itself. Effects of the stage lightning created an aesthetic of fear through red and white strobe lights. Fans themselves dove into the fearsome theme, creating a “wall of death” at Andersen’s command. The show itself was completely in the native language, creating a cultural explosion in the Icelandic metal scene.