A small, remote town in the middle of nowhere. There’s a museum on local and natural history and a school. There’s even a small hospital and of course, there is fishery. Everyone knows each other, it’s quiet and tranquil all year round. Except a few days when hordes of metalheads invade to celebrate a feast of electronic guitars, heavy riffs and dark music during the brightest days of the year: the Eistnaflug metal festival!
Starting as a small one-day festival back in 2005, Eistnaflug meanwhile has become one of the major festivals in Iceland next to Airwaves, Sónar and Secret Solstice and is the most important one in terms of rock, metal and punk music. Of course, “major” has another meaning in Iceland – the festival roughly doubles the number of about 1500 inhabitants of Neskaupstaður which made friends with the cowl-wearing, face-painted but at the same time friendly, polite and peaceful heavy/black/death metal family. No iditos allowed is the credo of the festival and for the eleventh time, the visitors from Iceland and abroad will obey it and turn the days in Norðfjörður fjord, 700km to the east of Reykjavík, into a remarkable experience.
The lineup is dominated by Icelandic names, flanked by a few, but all the more spectacular international acts, this year headed by the Swedish double Opeth and Meshuggah and the Finnish metaler of Amorphis. But in our faithful mission to spread the word about Icelandic bands, you’ll now get to know our Icelandic hot picks for Eistnaflug ‘16!
It’s obvious that you should not miss a band that already performed on the back of a truck while touring through Reykjavík or in Iceland’s only high security prison. Dr. Spock is a collective of crazy dudes around one of the most dazzling and enigmatic characters of Icelandic punk and rock music history. Óttar Proppé is not only an active politician but also part of the legends of HAM – who are also hitting the stage of Eistnaflug this year again. The ones of us who ever have witnessed Dr. Spock (or HAM) live certainly know what I’m talking about when I tell you: Icelanders go fucking crazy about those guys. And they will turn Boli stage into a sweaty, freaked out madhouse on thursday night. Brace yourself for the pit!
The rising dark star of Iceland’s black metal scene which is considered as one of the world’s most fascinating and thrilling ones just won the renowned Kraumur award last year. It’s the overall extreme metal package you will be offered, starting with their stage appearance of industrial style clothes, black and stage-blood make-up and peaking in their groundshaking waves of brute force sound. Let’s see if the walls of Boli stage will withstand the approaching storm on thursday – from inside the building.
If you ask other Icelandic artists and bands about their recommendations of local acts, you conspicuously often will be faced with the three women of Kælan Mikla. It might not be metal, but it’s definitely dark: menacing walls of dark synthesizer sounds, propelling basslines and the jarring voice of Laufey Soffía Þórsdóttir. Influenced by their passion for poetry and the punk scene featured in Icelandic iconic movie “Rokk í Reykjavík” they decided to combine both to create a new style of music they call, of course, Poetry Punk. Convince yourself that this description really fits their style best on saturday night at Brennivin stage!
But the band that kicked my own butt most when I rummaged around in this years line-up was something like a super group of members of several bands of the Icelandic rock and metal scene. Lightspeed Legend gathers musicians from bands like Momentum, Endless Dark, Ophidian I (all of which are also part of the line-up) or Icelandic rock veterans Sign. A funny twist of fate that I first thought about Lightspeed Legend as the “Icelandic Iron Maiden” just to discover later that Sign – and thus two LL members – formerly released an interpretation of Maiden’s “Run to the hills”. Anyway, I was so stunned by the virtuosity and power of LL’s sound that I spontaneously decided to ask my Eistnaflug ‘16 top pick a few questions. After all, there is a mind-blowing EP upon us in June! Lead singer Ragnar kindly answered:
1) Lightspeed Legend was new to me when I checked the lineup and typical for Icelandic bands, it’s not the only one for its members. How and when did you find each other and decided to become a band?
The band has been around for almost a decade, although on the slow burner. Lightspeed Legend is originally the brain child of Baldvin, lead guitarist, and the band sort of snowballed together over the years to become what it is today. We’re a studio band and so we spend an inordinate amount of time writing material and song ideas. We have a studio in our rehearsing space where we hang, drink beers and come up with sweet riffs and cool melodies in the spirit of the music that we love. We all have a fetish for old rock, especially 80’s rock, when everything seemed possible. There was no holding back in those days, and nobody complained if the solo was too long, or the high notes too high. Rock was not an intellectual thing, but something you did to have a good time. And so we try our wings a little bit when we compose, and whenever somebody adds a little tough-in-cheek detail to a riff or a instrumental part all the guys will smile at each other, nod and say “Oh, yeah”!
2) Your sound is influenced by the great metal bands of the 70s and 80s. Bands like Dio or Iron Maiden came to my mind immediately when I heard your music for the first time. Which bands would you describe as most influencing, also bands from Iceland?
Dio is definately revered in this band. We also love 80’s stuff like Van Halen, Skid Row, Kiss, Whitesnake etc. We have a lot of guilty pleasures, and a Europe poster above the toilet in the rehearsal space.
On the other hand our music is also influenced by a lot of contemporary Swedish Metal, like In Flames, Soilwork, which we feel lends our songs a heavier tone and makes playing live all the more fun!
3) You’re about to release your first EP Beautiful Vice soon. How’s it going and what can we look forward to?
In the past five years we’ve written more than a hundred songs and ideas which we’ve been toying with, and so the EP Beautiful Vice is almost like a sampler of what we’ve been up to all those late beer-enriched nights. We recorded it in studio ReFlex together with Flex (producer of Skálmöld and Vintage Caravan’s albums). Flex likes to wear a Napoleon hat when he’s engineering, and when we showed up to cut the EP he was cheering us on and encouraging us to be even more unadulterated.
Beautiful Vice will be out later this month and will feature six songs that show the full width of our sound with everything from mosh-pit riffs to power ballads!
4) What are you future plans with the band? Are you playing other live sets this year, maybe even abroad already?
We are already writing and arranging material for what will become our first full lenght album. As we mentioned we have lot’s of songs to choose from and we’re already in love with some of our new material. We’ll play a release gig for Beautiful Vice in Reykjavík towards the end of the summer. Besides playing in Reykjavík we’ll also try to play in some other various cool music towns in Iceland like Isafjörður and Akureyri.
5) Eistnaflug is coming closer quickly. Besides your own gig of course, what are you looking forward most at the festival and what do you think are the special characteristics of Eistnaflug?
Eistnaflug main characteristics is endless comraderie. The Icelandic metal scene is one big happy family and it becomes ever so evident each year in Eistnaflug. Everybody knows everybody, and probably plays with them too in various bands, and everybody head bangs and get drunk togeter. So besides hanging out with our metal buddies I guess it’s safe to say that Meshuggah will be a high point for us this year. Let’s see if we can get Jens Kidman drunk!
Thanks, Ragnar! See you at the festival!
Of course, these are just the tip of the iceberg! There’s a whole bunch of other mindblowing bands about to unleash the fury like Sólstafir, The Vintage Caravan, Momentum, In The Company of Men, Pink Street Boys…the list goes on and on. And as a special party performance, the Eistnaflug Disco Party on Saturday night will wait for you with amazing acts like Retro Stefson, Prins Póló and legendary Páll Óskar! 34 days to go!