What quantifies a successful Sigur Rós album? To read a review of this album, or any other for that matter, so close to its release and accept it as gospel is simply asinine. Let me put this into context. Personally, I have listened to this album upwards of 20 times over the past week and am still coming to terms with the album. You may think one would have a pretty confident grasp of an album with 20 listens under the belt. Well, news flash, this isn’t Bieber. It is far more prolific than Kanye West wishes he really were (note: I am a Kanye West fan) and stretches for the highest highs of U2 (also a fan). Frankly, in the realm Sigur Rós exists, the latter (ie. Bieb’s & West) do not. The dynamics at work within Sigur Rós are, at times, awe inspiring. Their latest offering does not disappoint.
Kveikur is majestic, dark, and hopeful with an underlining theme of determination. Imagery of violent storms, battlefields and the aftermath come to mind as the album reveals itself. Leading into the album, “Brennisteinn” (meaning Brimstone) (see http://twths.org/album-review-sigur-ros-brennisteinn-ep/; single-handedly squashed doubts the Iceland boys had lost their edge with band members. Just as Brennisteinn expands, the album quickly contracts with “Hrafntinna”, and then expands again to euphoric heights with “Isjaki”. This push-pull aesthetic is present throughout. “Brennisteinn” is only matched in its heaviness by the title track, “Kveikur”. It begins with a disturbing undertone with what could be the remnants of the angel choir chants featured on Valtari’s “Varúð”, but then drops into the abyss of the storm only to be lifted out of the waters by the falsetto of lead singer/guitarist Jónsi Birgisson. The album rejoices in “Rafstraumur” and “Stormur”. As hard hitting as the album begins, Sigur Rós gently lay us to rest with the minimalist closer “Var”.
In terms of catalog, Kveikur sits comfortably along 2005’s Takk, pushes beyond the bleakness of 2002’s () and yet manages to be the natural antithesis to 2012’s melancholy Valtari. It never reaches the care-free excitement of 2008’s “Með Suð Í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust”, but nor does it care too.
To answer the original question, a successful Sigur Rós album is one that holds a mirror directly into your face and asks you to reflect on all that is great, sad, beautiful, vicious and triumphant behind those eyes. Just as our lives constantly reveals themselves to us, as does Sigur Rós. If you are willing to give yourself over to an album like Kveikur, the reward may present itself in smiles, tears or heartache. At its best, you will feel a connection to the something beyond us that’s as otherworldly as the music you are digesting.
Kveikur is now available at: http://sigur-ros-store.com/kveikur/. A bonus 10” is included with purchases from independent record stores such as the Electric Fetus. Find your local record store here: http://www.recordstoreday.com/Home
Catch Sigur Ros this fall: http://www.sigur-ros.co.uk/tour