The violent winds that consumed the past two days of Airwaves finally slowed to a safer tone right around the point Low Roar took the stage at Harpa Kaldalón, and rightly so. The sounds pumping through the room of steep stadium seats were cool hued, and sonically reminiscent of crisp breezes on a choppy and starlit ocean front.
Here’s the thing about Low Roar’s performance: it dynamically displayed a whole new side to an album that, in the recording, sounds very simple, serene and comforting. In a live setting, that comfort remains, but is kicked up a few notches to get lost in a flowing whirlwind of friendly haunts from layered synths and careful guitar strums. On Low Roar’s self-titled album, vocalist Ryan Karazija’s voice is a delicate and alluring string of coos and murmurs. But at Harpa Kaldalón, those coos turned to passionate cries and beautiful hums that reverberated throughout to create a hypnotic, gentle-giant of sound. Low Roar has proven to be able to take simple chord structures, handled with care, and produce a brilliance of refreshing synths, complex percussion, and longing vocals.
This relentless force of wind had blown debris and gravel into the faces of city walkers throughout Reykjavík. It took down signs, and created damage throughout the downtown area. The musical equivalent to this loud and raucous powerhouse would have to be Heavy Medical.
That’s right. The picture above shows not one, but two drum kits being slammed and shattered to the tune of a bass that’s so distorted, it seemed to be an uncontrollable beast of reverb. The noise rock effort from Philadelphia turned out to be quite the crowd pleaser at Amsterdam. There’s just something about the reckless and self-destructive manner of the group, featuring explosive, confronting vocals that is so delightfully addictive. Heavy Medical left the crowd in a state of intoxicated surprise and clamoring for more.
Angist, an impending force of steady death metal with a dose of thrash, made great use of guttural screams from lead vocalist, Edda Tegeder Óskarsdóttir, Tumi Snær Gíslason’s crash cymbal annihilation and the angular riffing fromGyða Hrund Þorvaldsdóttir’s guitar.
Atrum displayed some more theatrics and drama in their performance, donning ghoulish face makeup and opening with an eerie choir track. Atrum are a very avant-garde style of metal with plenty of tricks up their sleeves as far as influence goes. At one moment, mid-range roars are composed and controlled and the next, we’re found to be in the middle of a fist pumping, triumphant chant.
Rattling double bass, snare blasting and heart palpitating panic chords were at times brought down for the inclusion of chunky, rhythmic elements that are reminiscent of contemporary metalcore which gave the band a sense of attitude and complex adventure.
To read more about Low Roar, check out the piece I did for the Reykjavík Grapevine about his experience of moving to a new country and starting a new musical project.