Sigur Rós are a highly unorthodox band. Despite not having radio-friendly songs, the Icelandic post-rockers have still managed to garner enough support to warrant an O2 show in November, and even an appearance on the Simpsons. Since their debut album ‘Von’ in 1997, the band have balanced between ambient and post-rock genres, creating a truly unique sound characterised by quirks such as bowed guitars and made-up lyrics.
‘Kveikur’ marks a slight change for the band where the sound is a little heavier, and the songs have more identity. Whereas previous Sigur Rós albums were designed to be listened to as a single work, where deciding when one track ended and the next began was a somewhat difficult task, ‘Kveikur’ has more distinct boundaries between songs. It’s even possible to identify choruses on this album, such as on Stormur, a glorious, uplifting track, with a chiming piano line breathing life into the tune, and Birgisson’s brilliant voice commanding the listener’s attention. Again Birgisson shows why he is one of the finest male vocalists around on Ísjaki, flitting effortlessly between falsetto and his standard voice. The distinctive sound of bowed guitars features heavily here, and throughout the album.
The title track is the highlight however. Distorted guitars howl ferociously, ceremonial-type drums reverberate powerfully, and an angry bassline buzzes throughout. Birgisson’s glorious vocals light up the track, soaring and echoing ominously for the duration of the song. Elsewhere, Brennistein features a string section to contrast with the distorted ‘chug’ of the guitars, before fading out into a harrowing ambient section.
‘Kveikur’, like all of Sigur Rós’ work, is very alien and exotic sounding. The bowing of the guitars, distorted basslines and often orchestral drum playing, coupled with the falsetto voices and Icelandic dialect create an almost unsettling atmosphere. Despite this, or maybe even because of this, ‘Kveikur’ is a very accessible album that contains all the elements that have made Sigur Rós such a successful and highly respected band.