Artist: Auđn

Album Title: Farvegir Fyrndar

Label: Season of Mist

Date Of Release: 10 November 2017

I’ll admit it: I’m biased. But whenever I hear that a new band originates from Iceland, I sit up and take notice. For many reasons, which I won’t bore you with here (but I will here), I have an affinity with the dramatically beautiful island from the far north. I also have a huge soft spot for the more melodic end of the black metal spectrum. So when I read the PR blurb that accompanied this promo offering from Season of Mist, I felt compelled to check it out.

I’m so glad I did too, because Auđn deliver just the kind of black metal that I really like. Think early Emperor, Hecate Enthroned or even very early Dimmu Borgir and bands of their ilk. Then blend it with a cold, bleak frostiness that could only ever come from an Icelandic act and you’ll understand where Auđn are coming from with their sophomore release, ‘Farvegir Fyrndar’.

Translated as ‘Ancient Riverbeds’, ‘Farvegir Fyrndar’ is a genuinely beautiful album. This might sound odd when referring to a record comprised of nine harsh and unforgiving black metal tracks. However, the word ‘beautiful’ is perfectly apt here. You see, whilst the music on ‘Farvegir Fyrndar’ is cold, malevolent and aggressive, it also contains some really sublime melodic sensibilities. The result is a listening experience that is bleak and savage on the one hand, and warm and welcoming on the other, with huge epic atmospheres weaved into the extreme metal tapestry for good measure. And it is this intriguing juxtaposition that makes the final product on this release so beguiling.

Admittedly, the material is not ever going to be referred to as 100% original or ground-breaking; that’s clearly not what Auđn are about. Instead, they take their cue from the past masters at this kind of music and put their own subtle stamps on it to create the kind of aural experience that they themselves want to hear.

By way of filling in a few blanks for those previously unaware of this band, Auđn are based in the small southern village of Hveragerđi and have been in business since 2010. They are a quintet, comprised of guitarists Aðalsteinn Magnússon and Andri Björn Birgisson, alongside vocalist Hjalti Sveinsson, bassist Hjálmar Gylfason and drummer Sigurður Kjartan Pálsson.


Photo credit: Verði ljós

‘Farvegir Fyrndar’ is the second release from Auđn and, if I can be any judge of such things, I predict that it could be the album that pulls them out of the deep underground and gets them that next level of well-deserved exposure. Being on a renowned label like Season of Mist can’t help either; indeed, that’s exactly how I became aware of Auđn’s existence. But ultimately, it is the music itself that most listeners will find leaves the biggest impression.

I don’t know whether it is something automatically built-in to artists from Iceland, but not for the first time, I find myself ‘seeing’ the rugged, beautiful country through the compositions that Auđn deliver. I can see in my mind’s eye, the snow-capped mountains and the incredible glaciers that rise into the sky. And I can also feel the unforgiving icy winds of late autumn or early spring, the kind that cuts your cheeks to ribbons and buffets your heavy clothes.

As I listen for the umpteenth time, I find myself falling under the spell of Auđn and I can’t help but be drawn in to a sense of the majestic at the core of the songs, whilst the deliberately abrasive production tries its best to disguise this element of sophistication, accompanied by the shrieks and growls of vocalist Hjalti Sveinsson.

The entirety of the album is remarkably consistent, so it is very tricky to extract favourite songs. However, the opening moments of the first track, ‘Verold Hulin’ are sublime, beginning relatively sedately and melodically, led by the forceful drumming of Sigurður Kjartan Pálsson before the track explodes with venom thanks to the dual guitar riffing and a surprisingly potent bass from Hjálmar Gylfason. The remainder of the piece changes tack a few times, from deeply atmospheric and slow-paced to the all-out speed of double-pedal drumming and staccato riffs. All the while though, there are undeniably grandiose undertones and accessibility, not least via a lovely lead guitar solo imbued with melody or the addition of gentle acoustic guitars to the mix.

I’m also a huge fan of the tumultuous ‘Lifvana Jord’ which comes out of the speakers like a wounded rhino but which then settles down into a richer mid-tempo magnificence, before dialling up the tempo at certain well-placed moments. The mix of vague discordance and overt melody is compelling and overall it is just a brilliantly imagined black metal track.

Elsewhere, the vocals within Haldreipi Hugans remind me of ‘Stormblast’-era Dimmu Borgir, whilst I find the post-metal-like quasi melodies within ‘Prisund’ to be infectious, almost a little unsettling.

But it is the final trio of ‘Eilifar Naetur’, ‘Skuggar’ and ‘I Halmstraid Held’ that offer the finale that this album so richly deserves. They are all full of beautifully epic and mournful melody, with ‘Skuggar’ taking the plaudits as my personal favourite song, albeit only if I had a gun placed to my head. The way it builds is fabulous, from a quiet intro to ultimately explode into full-on anthemic proportions, culminating in an exuberant lead guitar solo atop a powerful, memorable melody.

Put simply, ‘Farvegir Fyrndar’ is a tremendous record. It treads that fine line between accessibility and extremity so deftly that it is likely to find universal favour with black metal fans, however they like their music of choice delivered. I am delighted to have come across Auđn and I can now justifiably add their name to the list of very big surprises in 2017 thanks to this superb release.

The Score Of Much Metal: 9


If you’ve enjoyed this review, you can check out my others from previous years and for 2017 right here:

2015 reviews
2016 reviews

Beast In Black – Berserker
Serenity – Lionheart
Sorcerer – The Crowning of the Fire King
Daydream XI – The Circus of the Tattered and Torn
CyHra – Letters To Myself
Devoid – Cup of Tears
Ne Obliviscaris – Urn
Sons Of Apollo – Psychotic Symphony
Enslaved – E
Samael – Hegemony
Vuur – In This Moment We Are Free – Cities
Power Quest – Sixth Dimension
Iris Divine – The Static And The Noise
Daniel Cavanagh – Monochrome
White Moth Black Butterfly – Atone
Jag Panzer – The Deviant Chord
Vulture Industries – Stranger Times
Anubis Gate – Covered In Black
Protean Collective – Collapse
Cradle Of Filth – Cryproriana – The Seductiveness of Decay
TDW & Dreamwalkers Inc. – The Antithetic Affiliation
Caligula’s Horse – In Contact
Nocturnal Rites – Phoenix
Arch Enemy – Will To Power
Threshold – Legends Of The Shires
H.E.A.T – Into The Great Unknown
Dyscarnate – With All Their Might
Subterranean Masquerade – Vagabond
Adagio – Life
Paradise Lost – Medusa
The Haunted – Strength In Numbers
Serious Black – Magic
Leprous – Malina
The Lurking Fear – Out of the Voiceless Grave
Prospekt – The Illuminated Sky
Wintersun – The Forest Seasons
Witherfall – Nocturnes And Requiems
Tuesday The Sky – Drift
Anthriel – Transcendence
Decapitated – Anticult
Cosmograf – The Hay-Man Dreams
Orden Ogan – Gunmen
Iced Earth – Incorruptible
Anathema – The Optimist
Solstafir – Berdreyminn
Dream Evil – Six
Avatarium – Hurricanes And Halos
Ayreon – The Source
Until Rain – Inure
MindMaze – Resolve
God Dethroned – The World Ablaze
Bjorn Riis – Forever Comes To An End
Voyager – Ghost Mile
Big Big Train – Grimspound
Lonely Robot – The Big Dream
Firespawn – The Reprobate
Ancient Ascendant
Pyramaze – Contingent
Shores Of Null – Black Drapes For Tomorrow
Asira – Efference
Hologram Earth – Black Cell Program
Damnations Day – A World Awakens
Memoriam – For The Fallen
Pallbearer – Heartless
Sleepmakeswaves – Made of Breath Only
Ghost Ship Octavius – Ghost Ship Octavius
Vangough – Warpaint
Telepathy – Tempest
Obituary – Obituary
Fen – Winter
Havok – Conformicide
Wolfheart – Tyhjyys
Svart Crown – Abreaction
Nova Collective – The Further Side
Immolation – Atonement
The Mute Gods – Tardigrades Will Inherit The Earth
Ex Deo – The Immortal Wars
Pyogenesis – A Kingdom To Disappear
My Soliloquy – Engines of Gravity
Nailed To Obscurity – King Delusion
Helion Prime – Helion Prime
Battle Beast – Bringer Of Pain
Persefone – Aathma
Soen – Lykaia
Exquirla – Para Quienes Aun Viven
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Mors Principium Est – Embers Of A Dying World
Firewind – Immortals
Slyde – Back Again EP
Sepultura – Machine Messiah
Deserted Fear – Dead Shores Rising
Kreator – Gods Of Violence
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Pain of Salvation – In The Passing Light of Day