Hamferð- Men Guðs hond er sterk (Album Review)

March 20, 2024


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Hamferð blew me away with Támsins likam back in 2018, as the Faroe Islands based band took elements of melodic death/doom, post metal, and traditional doom and took them to dark and entrancing places.  The instrumentals had a knack for utterly bleak atmosphere yet still drew you in, and the soaring clean singing and powerful growls courtesy of singer Jón Aldará helped to set the band apart.  Following the album Hamferð released a short two-song EP a year later but have been fairly quiet since then.  Thankfully that silence has ended in 2024 with Men Gu​ð​s hond er sterk, which continues their sweeping atmospherics and gloomy melodies but doubles down on the heavier side of the spectrum.  It’s a more destructive and forceful effort than its predecessor, but there are just as many moments that stick with and showcase why this is such an exciting band to listen to.

Opener” Ábær” makes a strong impression with pummeling, dense riffs and weighty drums that channel a more death/doom sound before expanding into an expansive melody that washes over the listener.  It’s sure to feel familiar for anyone that’s spent time with the band’s previous two full lengths but continues to showcase the best of both their melodic and heavy side.  “Rikin” showcases the first of some unexpected elements, as the song initially builds with slower, plodding riffs but explodes into some blast beats towards the end.  “Hvølja” towards the end of the album also doubles down on the heavy, with a sound so bleak and destructive sounding that it stands out during every listen.  Hamferð hasn’t necessarily shied away from this approach in the past and some of their previous work has gone into some death metal territory, but this is the most harrowing yet and it contrasts nicely with the passages that are darker in an emotional context.  This additional variety goes a long way, as the sudden burst of speed or move into heavy or softer textures makes each song distinguishable.  It’s a dark yet inviting listen that kept me engaged the whole way through, with the only lull coming in the form of the title track that finishes things off.  Here the band goes for a spoken word song that details the real life events the album is themed around, with softer acoustic guitar in the background.  The drearier and subdued nature of this track isn’t necessarily bad, but it ends the material with a bit of a whimper considering just how intense “Hvølja” is.  To me, it seems like the type of song that would’ve been better served as an intro or interlude rather than an outro, and while that does dull the impact at the end slightly it doesn’t take away from just how powerful the remainder of Men Gu​ð​s hond er sterk is.

Jón Aldará’s performance once again leaves a lasting impression, as the way he seamlessly moves from soaring singing that seems to reach towards the clouds and harsher growls gives the material a considerable amount of power.  Where Támsins likam seemed to pivot over to a bit more singing, Men Gu​ð​s hond er sterk has a bit more of an even split and there’s a lot more growling that suits the denser heavier instrumentation.  There’s a fullness to the harsher ranges that makes them have just as much weight as the rest of the band, and anyone that enjoys the more extreme variants of doom is likely to be drawn in by this aspect of Hamferð’s material.  On the other side of the spectrum, the singing still has this soaring operatic feel to it that adds to the emotional weight and sense of tension, even for those that don’t speak the band’s native tongue.  Men Gu​ð​s hond er sterk provides just as much depth to discover on the vocal side, and it’s impressive to hear just how well the harsh and melancholic elements mesh together.

The wait between Hamferð sometimes feels long, but each time they remind me that it was worth it.  They continue to strike a fine line between entrancing melodies that have a bleaker, melancholic tone alongside more crushing riffs, but this time the formula has been shaken up a bit more and some of these songs are their most destructive to date.  While I personally would’ve placed the title track somewhere else on the album to have the most impact, the stunning nature of so many of these riffs and vocal work has kept me coming back for the past few days and I suspect that will still be the case months from now.  Men Gu​ð​s hond er sterk is available from Metal Blade Records.

-Review by Chris Dahlberg