Often, where a band is from can have a great impact on their sound and Hamferð hail from Tórshavn, Faroe Islands, which lie roughly between Norway and Iceland in the North Atlantic. Culturally, the islands have their roots in Nordic culture but due to the relative isolation, many of the movements that swept across Europe never made the jump to the Faroe islands, so they maintain a strong traditional culture that draws on stories of hardship, unpredictable weather, superstition, and history. Within this setting the band developed, forming in 2008 releasing one ep and two albums of a conceptual trilogy, Vilst er síðsta fet (ep, 2010), the critically acclaimed Evst (2013) and now, Támsins likam. As with previous recordings the band recorded at Studio Bloch in the Faroe Islands but this time had Daniel Bergstrand (Meshuggah, Soilwork, Dimmu Borgir) mix the album in his Dugout Production Studios.
Being that this is advertised as doom metal and given the sometimes what I imagine to be bleak environment the band originates from, one can enter the listening experience with a good bit of expectation around what is to come. Singer Jón Aldará described the album as marking “the beginning of the end. It’s the third and final part of our reverse chronological saga, which explores mortality and the perverting nature of loss through the lens of Faroese culture and mythology.” Certainly heavy topics and the much like on the previous album Evst, the band delivers amazing performances filled with nuance and emotion, heavy and crushing, and yet, beautiful.
In the time frame of the trilogy, Támsins likam (The Body of Mist) is actually before Evst and tells the story of a husband and wife as they endure the grieving process of losing a child to illness. Lyrically the band stays with the Faroese language but the raw emotion Is unmistakeable. As the story begins with “Fylgisflog” the wife imagines leaving her responsibilities of keeping the family together as the husband sinks into a depression. As the story continues the woman and man cope with grief differently generating conflict which is never fully resolved.
Just in general, this is one of those albums that one should set aside 45 minutes of uninterrupted time and listen to start to finish as it works incredibly well taken as a whole. “Fylgisflog” opens up with slow, soft keyboard and clean guitar and string instruments and builds to some more ominous sounds that don’t materialize until much later in the song. Jón Aldará’s vocals are perfectly suited for the material, ranging from soft and quiet, reminiscent of parts of the Broadway version of Phantom of the Opera, to full on death metal growling. Once the full band comes in the doom metal becomes readily obvious but instead of the repetitive, monotonous plodding riffs, the band as a whole adds some unique elements and bits of flourish to keep things interesting.
“Stygd” starts out with a glow solitary guitar riff joined in by drums and what could be male choir in the background. Again, the song builds over the chiming and droning guitar riff and growled vocals with Remi Johannesen adding some great tom-heavy drum work in the background that seems to be on its own rhythm but somehow ties in to the slower, grinding nature of the song.
On “Tvistevndur meldur”, Ísak Petersen takes a turn at leading thing through the song with drums and bass carrying much of the workload in the beginning. Even when the guitars join in later, the bass can still be felt moving the song along at its slow, methodical pace. Daniel Bergstrand has done some magic in mixing the material as all the instruments and vocals blend together so well and at the same time remain distinct, which allows the listener to continually hear new aspects to the sound depending on where the focus is chosen. Aldará’s soaring, deep smooth vocals are amazing and throughout the album with their dark, goth, anguished tone and contrast well with his growled death metal style vocals.
The opening of “Frosthvarv” would likely scare off many of the metalheads around as it has such an airy and calm feeling to it with somewhat muted music other than the drums which again seem to be on their own pacing but have a distinct sharp sound in contrast to the other instruments being a bit muted including a soft piano in the background. Around the halfway mark the full band comes in with the guitars adopting a distinct sharp tone as Aldará’s vocals change from clean to growled. Fittingly, the song concludes with the muted piano as it fades out.
“Hon syndrast” is likely the heaviest track from start to finish on the album and would be the one that most would expect to hear from a doom metal album with its crunchy riffs and faster tempo and drums that get to near blast beats at one point in the song. Even at near blast beat pace, the song has that majestic feel to it more like an orchestral piece than a death metal song. The longest track, “Vápn i anda” slowly twists and winds around and eventually closes out the album much like the album started, a fitting conclusion.
Hamferð have once again far exceeded expectations. Not being a fan of doom at all, I was very skeptical of Evst when I first reviewed that one, but was immediately struck by how different this was from other things I had been reviewing. Hamferð manage to take the listener on a journey on both of these albums and have further refined their craft on Támsins likam. This isn’t simply and album, it’s an experience.
Written by John Jackson
3. Tvistevndur meldur
5. Hon syndrast
6. Vapn I anda
Jón Aldará – Vocals
John Egholm – Guitar
Theodor Kapnas – Guitar
Ísak Petersen – Bass
Esmar Joensen – Keyboards
Remi Johannesen – Drums
“Vilst er Síðsta Fet”EP (2010)
“Evst” (2013) [review]
“Támsins likam” (2018)
Record Label: Metal Blade Records, Jan. 2018
Video for ‘Stygd’
Video for ‘Frostharvarv’
Lyric video for ‘Hon syndrast’