I like some of the more bizarre artistic turns my favorite bands have gone in. I am a big fan of Disco era Kiss and New Wave era Alice Cooper. I like even the glam rock days of Celtic Frost. So the turn this band has taken might not phase me like their long time fans. Though I am not as emotionally invested into their path as i am Kiss or Alice Copper. like this fact it sounds album is a weird shift for the Icelandic band like a cross between the Cure and Neurosis colliding . The song is upbeat despite it's crusty edges. The production is a little weird The guitar shifts in where it sits in the mix, the drums almost sound like they are programmed, but this could be the fact they are playing almost a dance beat to create this illusion. They blend pop hooks with the some kind of prog inflections that Muse uses , but the vocals are less Queen like and a emotive yet gruff baritone that seeks to reach beyond it's range. "Hula" finds the atmospherics becoming much thicker and darker more sonic shadow cast over the song before it relaxes down into dreamy reverb filled guitar line that has almost more of a shoe gaze edge to it before the vocals come in. The vocals hold a firmer melody than someone like their country men in Sigur Rios. Distorted chord ring out in the background, but it would be hard pressed to call this rock much less metal.
It's not until "Naros" that something chugs into place that ties this band to their metal roots.It reminds me of where many metal bands found themselves when trying to find their identity when alternative music got big. The song that follows is some what of a power ballad as it starts with a more delicate piano piece and works it's way up gathering intensity as it progresses. They lay it on thick with the keyboards going into "Dyrafjorour" then bring in a very Pink Floyd guitar solo. David Gilmore is one of my favorite guitarists so if you can bring him to mind that is saying something. Though their guitar tone is far from being as immaculate as his. The vocals are sung in Icelandic which doesn't translate well to the melody they are trying to employ. So this puts the song's fate in the hands of a guitar melody that brings us back to our rule here ....cool riffs alone do not make a good song. The "Us & Them" ambiance is cool and all, but doesn't knock a home run.
They are back in a more Floydian direction on "Ambatt" which finds the softer vocal touch working form better than some of the more rock tinged moments. There is a slight jammy tone to how this song unfolds. When the over driven guitar melody slides in they have hit one of the album's stronger dynamic places. "Blafjall" has a more aggressive pulse that eventually turns into a more metallic chug, but aside from the heaviness, it doesn't connect as soundly with me as some of the albums other songs. The final two minutes of this song find the band taking off in a way that might remind you of their earlier days, but it's almost too little too late in that regard.At the end of the day it depends on how much you embrace the changes this band has under gone over the years, if you have been along for the ride up until this point it will seem like a very natural progression to this point. In any case I'll give this album an 8.5.