Elemental Icelanders Katla reveal the ancient art of the curse

Katla promo pic 2020, by Kuggur & Laura Diamond
(Image credit: Kuggur & Laura Diamond)

Named after the most active volcano in their native Iceland, and suitably elemental in sound, Katla may not be alone in mapping their vast surroundings onto turbulent internal terrain, but their imminent second album, Allt Þetta Helvítis Myrkur (‘All This Hellish Darkness’), is unlike anything you’ve ever heard.

The combined vision of Fortið’s Einar Thorberg Guðmundsson and former Sólstafir drummer, Guðmundsson Óli Pálmason, Allt… is a major stylisitic shift from their more gothic-tinged 2017 debut, Móðurástin – grander in scope, grimmer in tone and shifting seamlessly between imperious doomsaying, wracked emotional testimony and equally fertile realms in between.

With the album due to be released on November 13 via Prophecy Productions, Katla are unveiling a stark, striking, and somewhat disturbing video for the track, Sálarsvefn. Directed by Pálmason himself, if features a modern rendering of an ancient Icelandic curse rite named ‘Níðstang’ or ‘Nithing pole’, which, for those who haven’t played the videogame, The Witcher 3, involves an placing the severed head of a horse (already passed on, in case you’re wondering) on top of a pole.

Both cinematic and enigmatic, Sálarsvefn’s soundtrack is equally weighty, falling on the more imperious side of Katla’s sonic spectrum and taking you on an seven-and-a-half-minute journey after which the stars may well refuse to shine and whose levels of stern, implacable power will shake your foundations to a level that only Triptykon’s Tom G Fischer can match.

“The title Sálarsvefn translates as ‘Sleep Of The Soul’ and my lyrics venture into the darkest corners of the mind of an anonymous human being”, says Einar Thorberg Guðmundsson. “This song is about pure hate and loathing. Whoever shows such a person any sign of sympathy or compassion will certainly be dragged into this creature’s insane world of misery.”

Stunning in all senses of the word, Katla are venturing where other bands fear to tread, only the most intrepid may dare to follow, but where thunderous wonder awaits.

Visit Katla's Facebook page and pre-order Allt Þetta Helvítis Myrkur via Bandcamp or the Prophecy Productions web store

Jonathan Selzer

Having freelanced regularly for the Melody Maker and Kerrang!, and edited the extreme metal monthly, Terrorizer, for seven years, Jonathan is now the overseer of all the album and live reviews in Metal Hammer. Bemoans his obsolete superpower of being invisible to Routemaster bus conductors, finds men without sideburns slightly circumspect, and thinks songs that aren’t about Satan, swords or witches are a bit silly.