Rain fell within the Harpa Kaldalón stage on Friday night to kick off Stereo Hypnosis‘ ambient set – or at least that’s what it sounded like. The surround sound in the theater-seated auditorium enveloped the room into a thunderstorm with a large screen behind the three men displaying morphing visuals that mimicked ocean waves crashing into a black abyss. The opening was impressive, but the band skulked onto stage into the darkness, didn’t introduce themselves, and launched into their slow set without an introduction or any spoken word. Had anyone wandered into the theater, no one would know who was playing, and they would hear the same repetitive sounds playing for 40 continuous minutes. The bass throbbed underneath subtle synthesizers that hardly changed in range or rhythm. At most, Stereo Hypnosis’ set was one to practice yoga to, with a calming effect that would essentially put the audience to sleep, if they hadn’t already gotten up to leave 20 minutes early.
Something that is rarely found in hardcore music has been found in In the Company of Men: goosebumps. Lead vocalist A. K. Andersen possessed a scream on Thursday night at Gaukurinn that ranged from a pterodactyl-like high-pitched screech to a low roar without notice. Bassist Smúle dropped dirty lines that shook the small upstairs venue and pushed the music along while the self-specified “mathcore” band jolted into crabcore mania. There was a method to the chaos as guitarists Séra Finni and Steini Milljón produced catchy melodies instead of traditionally heard hardcore repetitive riffs. The sound had perfect balance as each component of screams, vocals, guitar, drum and bass meshed together with equal value and were all heard uniquely within their creation. Andersen jumped over the gate and into the crowd to get rowdy in the mosh pit with a group that sung each word as he spiraled through them. To conclude, In the Company of Men achieved a rousing chant from the entire crowd over and over again: maim, kill, destroy – and their set did exactly that as the band finished and walked off the stage to a roar.
In what seemed to be a recurring theme at Iceland Airwaves, Muck took the stage at Gamla Bíó with no introduction. Unknown to lead vocalist Loftur Einarson, there was also an unplugged mic in the stand at the front of the stage. Even after a crew member rushed on stage to fix the problem while he slammed on his guitar, Einarson voice was drowned out behind guitarist Ási Þórðarson, bassist Karl Torsten Ställborn and drummer Indriði Arnar Ingólfsson. Einarson screamed into the mic, but it hardly made a difference. With the absence of lyrics, Ställborn wailed on his set and drove the thrashing music with his pounding sound. He appeared as the driving talent on stage with a half-minute drum solo as other members hid in the shadows of the stage lights. The guitars were classic punk style, repetitive thrashing without true melody, but the drums took the spotlight from rear spot on the stage. If it hadn’t been for Ställborn’s complicated combinations, Muck would have had a failed performance. It was disappointing to see so much potential without the execution from the others, but the music raged on at Gamla Bíó before Muck ended with a new song. One can only hope that the next performance will be far more advanced from the Thursday show’s engineering.
Rökkurró took the stage at Iðnó to introduce what lead vocalist Hildur Kristín Stefánsdóttir introduced as the “most personal album until now.” Their new album, Í Annan Heim, translates into English as On the Inside. Most of the songs were sung in Icelandic, but it didn’t require a translator to understand the feeling of floating the song “Flugdrekar,” or “Kites” gave. Stefánsdóttir’s voice soared through the small, church-like venue over bright synths and several different keyboards, guitars, and drums – plus, an extra unnamed percussionist bringing in the tambourine. Rökkurró entranced the audience into a dreamlike state that had an extra rock-style kick behind their flowy sound and appearance.