Hamferð – “Men Guðs hond er sterk”


The sound of Faroese doom metal is not to be trifled with. It is intense and atmospheric, taking you to times and places remote, cold and seafaring. From the tiny nation of the Faroe Islands, Hamferð hails as the self-proclaimed islands’ sound of doom metal. Formed in 2008, this massive sextet has been slowly churning out quality metal at the speed of doom with this being only the third full length release in their 16 year history.

I was surprised in my research that the Faroe Islands is actually a part of the Kingdom of Denmark. Although it looks close to Scotland, they are culturally Scandinavian which might explain the relatively large number of metal bands that hail from the Faroe Islands. As noted in a prior review, they are rather isolated giving rise to a stronger folk culture. Faroese is the native language and Hamferð’s language of choice for their songs in a demonstration of homeland pride.

“Men Guðs hond er sterk,” which means “But God’s hand is strong,” is a beautiful work of art. I tend to like emotional moody music, so a heavy doom-based album inspired by a 1915 whaling tragedy checks a lot of boxes for me. The intense emotions portrayed from sadness, mourning, devastation, and even resignation are palpable over the course of the album through the excellent use of post-metal elements that give the songs a dreamlike feel. The vocals done by Jon Aldara (Barren Earth) oscillate between pitch perfect, yet haunting, clean vocals and deep underworldly death vocals to give voice to the emotions.

The album is a complete work and best experienced in a single sitting. Running at a respectable 44 minutes, makes finding that time easy. I’m not sure if there is a story connecting the songs, but the album flows well from one track to the next. Their musical style draws the listener in and you can’t help but follow, regardless of your Faroese proficiency.

The opening track “Ábær” does a great job of introducing the listener to Hamferð’s sound: dark heavy riffing that comes in waves like icy oceanic waves on the rocky shore. Jon starts off with his death vocals that are right at home in this dark texture, but the clean vocals later pierce through in a way that is more unsettling than the death vocals. At this point, I am transported in time and space to when and where these stories take place. “Rikin” keeps the heaviness going with good riffing, heavy pummeling drums and a thick post-metal tapestry that is pierced again with strong clean vocals.

“Marrusorg” starts with this same heaviness, but opens into a very open, slightly airy musical space that has a profound melancholic feel, like right before a complete mental collapse. When the heavy guitars come in, the release of the pent of emotion is visceral as if raging to make sense of the tragedy. They shift to a delicate musical opening to “Glæman.” It is a calm in the midst the rather dark emotions felt so far, providing hope in the dark. The vocal melody is oddly infectious. I have caught myself whistling this melancholic tune from time-to-time in odd places like at work.

“Í hamferð” heads the sound back into the black, almost literally. The song goes through these passing thick clouds of metal chords that give way to openness and clarity only to repeat again. It gets close to black metal without the vocals. Up to this point it has felt like tragedy and reaction to it, but “Fendreygar” takes the listener resignation, the acceptance of tragedy. Using a lighter musical touch at the beginning, I can feel the bargaining phase of the grief cycle. After three minutes of this bargaining, there is a final resignation with the full weight of the band behind it.

“Hvølja” is the last fling in despair as the band goes full funeral speed. There is a lot of low and deep tones in the mix that paint a deep dark ocean, but it is the distorted spray in the halo of their sound, like sea spray, that makes it feel real. The deep guttural death vocals make the entire song clear of the depth of despair.

The song ends with the title track which is a telling of the whaling tragedy in 1915 in Faroese. The story is told by a wisened storyteller with light guitar accompaniment, making a great transition from living in the story to reality. This is the translation of one of the last lines, which I thought was worthy of contemplation:

But God’s hand is strong. Many times it has been shown to be a big difference between what a man or men set out to do and the result they got from their plan.”

Hamferð keeps it engaging with the best kind of progressive songwriting that flows effortlessly from one section to the other. This is probably in part due to recording live in the studio as a band, eschewing the use of click-tracks and recording tracks in silo. This elevates my respect for the band in taking an organic approach to their sound, making it more honest.

“Men Guðs hond er sterk” is an incredible journey that I think everyone who has hints of extreme metal tastes should check out. The album is cinematic. Not in the John Williams orchestral blockbuster, but like a solid, engaging, emotionally-mature indie film. Tragedy is a part of the human experience and it is healthy to work through it, and this album gives a soundtrack to peer into the depths of those emotions while holding onto hope.

Rating: 10/10

Written by Sean Bailey

1 – Ábær
2 – Rikin
3 – Marrusorg
4 – Glæman
5 – Í hamferð
6 – Fendreygar
7 – Hvølja
8 – Men Guðs hond er sterk

Hamferð is:
Jon Aldara – vocals
Remi Johannesen – drums
Theodor Kapnas – guitars
Esmar Joensen – keyboards
Jenus Í Trøðini – bass
Eyðun í Geil Hvannastein – guitars

Release Date: March 27, 2024

Record Label: Metal Blade Records

Vilst er Síðsta Fet – EP (2010)
Evst (2013) [review]
Támsins likam (2018) [review]
Ódn – EP (2019)
Men Guðs hond er sterk (2024)

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Video for Marrusorg

Video for Ábær

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