Album review: Sigur Rós – Kveikur

Sigur Rós - Kveikur

Sigur Rós - Kveikur - Credit: Archant

Their trademark glacial, widescreen and delicate beauty is blown into stormier waters following the departure of multi-instrumentalist Kjartan Sveinsson. The result? No lifeboats needed.

Billed as their best work since 1999’s word-of-mouth breakthrough Ágætis Byrjun, Kveikur inhabits a more dystopian plane.

It opens with the serrated, ribcage-shaking bass of Brennisteinn, frontman Jónsi Birgisson’s vocals wafting over it like mist around Mordor.

Four minutes in, cymbal and drums briefly cut through the distorted gloom before a synthetic fug muffles the lot. It certainly won’t be soundtracking a BBC natural history series any time soon.

Piano is all but banished to the closing coda Var, while the title track’s barbed basslines, clanging metal and Jónsi’s anguished tones retain the band’s signature epic feel, but it swallows light like a black hole.

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The pretty Ísjaki comes close to the uplifting, elven Sigur Ros of old, while Hrafntinna proffers twisted synths, funereal drums and brass.

Here the band embrace a strangely liberating noir after their glacial excursions of yore.

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Frankly, it’s a progression as profound and necessary as it is sobering and welcome.

4 stars

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