Hammer’s relationship with the six-man black metal force that is Auðn began in 2015, as part of a panel of judges on the Icelandic leg of the Wacken metal battle. Devout exponents of 90s extremity, they put in an impassioned performance but finished second, returning a year later to win. Such dedication has seen the band endure amidst a firmly established and respected local scene; Iceland is notorious for producing some of the most potent modern black metal there is. Many of their countrymen meddle nefariously on the precipice of the unknown, conjuring dissonant, experimental realms. Auðn’s traditionalism sets them apart as committed exponents of accessible and balefully melodious tremolo-picked fury.
Album three, Vökudraumsins Fangi (‘Prisoner Of The Daydream’), continues in that vein. Einn Um Alla Tíð’s stirring acoustic intro ratchets up to a scathing assault, with the heralding scream of vocalist Hjalti Sveinsson showing impressive range as he undulates with the music from sorrow to apoplexy. Birtan Hugann Brennir is a slow burner, its occasional bursts of pace ravaging an otherwise stirring expanse of smouldering riffs and spinetingling leads.
So far, so Auðn. Drepsótt’s imperious start-stop opening returns for an electrifying chorus, while Horfin Mér best represents their aplomb for composing cold, spellbinding melodies that entwine ashen, excoriating aural assaults. Ljóstýra and the title track make for relatively delicate closing chapters, wandering dreamlike through rousing soundscapes doubtless inspired by visions of their majestic homeland. Blackened new ground forged in volcanic fire, it is an at times alien, frostbitten realm of outstanding natural beauty that Auðn capture, but in a manner that is comparatively conservative to their peers. Inarguably, each successive record further hones their confidently executed and powerful formula, but it is one that would benefit from some volcanic activity of its own.