Úlfúð is a Black Metal/Death Metal hybrid formed in Iceland in 2015. Land of mystery and majesty, fire and ice, they have broken onto the international scene with their first full-length album, Of Existential Distortion. Their debut EP, First Sermon, was released in 2018. The harsh vocals cover the heavy riffed guitars and powerful, driving rhythms, offset by delicate lead work meant to accentuate the darkness embodied in the lyrics and the vocal delivery. The imagery of their band photos and the album artwork round out the look and feel, tying into the sound, creating a complete audio-visual package that is consistent and gloriously devoid of color.
- Breki Danielsen Imsland – Vocals
- Birkir Kárason – Guitars
- Eysteinn Orri Sigurðsson – Guitars
- Hannar Sindri Grétarsson – Bass/Backing Vocals
- Sigurður Jakobsson – Drums
March 17, 2023, on Dark Descent Records
- Where Strange Lights Dance
- Tears Of Terra
- Mockery Theatre
- Gods Left Behind
- An Elegy To A Paradise Out Of Reach
- Leviathan Dreams
The album starts with a disjointed tone that runs through the first phrase of the song. The shift into high gear with a change in the rhythm pattern and a pained scream ushering in the main riff. The guitar work is fast and heavy, with a dark, menacing riff offset by the lead work. The leads are more melodic and delicate. By delicate, I do NOT mean soft or gentle, but instead finely placed and handled with finesse, lovingly settled into the song to showcase the beauty of brutality.
“Tears Of Terra” fades in, the guitar emerging to wreck the silence and destroy the quiet. The tuning is heavy, giving the rhythm weight and a tempo. The drums are full on power, ranging from blast beats to intricate patterns that keep the song moving at the right speed the whole time. The bass thunders beside the rhythm guitar, building the wall of sound behind the lead guitar.
To change things up a little, “Mockery Theater” goes for more of a Sludge sound with the rhythm guitar and bass. That style is blown to pieces by the drumming, so you get tension over the dominant offering. Meanwhile, the drums and vocals do their thing. A little more up-tempo, “Faceless” is a powerhouse of a song with a heaviness borne by the rhythm. That chugging riff, coupled with the lead work, is part of what makes this style of music so remarkable. They work together to wash over you, wave after wave of brutal sound, taking your emotion with it, leaving you drained and somehow happy.
“The Gods Left Behind” and “Questions” again take us through two different styles as they stalk through Death, Black, Doom, and Sludge tones and tempos. Úlfúð is not a single style or genre. They exist in many places and on many planes. They dare to mix and match whenever and however they feel appropriate. And while most of the songs on this album are four to five minutes, they can go longer.
“An Elegy To A Paradise Out Of Reach” is eight and a half minutes and maintains a mid-range tempo for this band. There are faster sections that ramp up the intensity, then everything drops back, returning to the melodic groove they started with. They wrap the disc with “Leviathan Dreams,” a more Sludge oriented track. The melodic riff with the well-built lead work again comes into play, having become a big part of the band’s signature.
Úlfúð has talked to us about dark, heavy topics, and they’ve done it while crafting music that matches the lyrics. Theirs is a dreary existence, and they take you on a journey through what they think, feel, and believe, leaving you almost breathless, wondering what comes next. Will it be darkness, an inescapable void? Will it be an everlasting torment? I may not know the answer, but I hope that whatever it is, this is the soundtrack to it.
- Guitars – 9
- Rhythms – 9
- Vocals – 8
- Songwriting – 8
- Production – 8
- Overall – 8.60