Reykjavik Deathfest: Viking Classics and Other Memoirs Of Extreme Music In The Heart Of Iceland
Ah, the mighty tundra of Iceland, also known as the trendiest and most extortionate vacation destination of the 21st century. Between the endless sunlight, the craggy, barren landscape, and the weird-ass language, it’s almost as if you’re in another world completely.
Don’t worry, I won’t be making MetalSucks into my personal #travel blog. Though Iceland only has a population of around 300,000 people, it also happens to be a burgeoning hub of remarkable underground metal bands. I had the pleasure of attending the third annual Reykjavik Deathfest, which celebrates local Icelandic acts as well as bringing in bands from around the world, so to commemorate, I’ll be presenting some bogus awards which don’t mean anything but can be redeemed for reputational cred at any participating MetalSucks kiosk near you.
Let me preface with this: the Gaukurrinn is one of the greatest small venues I’ve ever been to. Their events range from metal concerts to drag shows to Mario 64 tournaments, and the staff is fantastic; they taught me the only Icelandic phrase I was able to retain – meiri bjór! If I could trade my soul for all the Viking Classics in the world, it’d be a reasonable deal… going back to PBR has been a painful transition. The only thing better than the beer is the tap water, which I’m going to start a black market for in the US if anyone would like to join me.
Anyway, without further ado, let’s get to business.
Best Dressed: Cult of Lilith (IS)
These suave mother fuckers are the epitome of class. They’re also very talented instrumentalists, although sometimes they put actually making good music to the side in favor of showing off. Still, they looked fly as hell.
Most Insane Frontman: Warfuck (FR)
Dear lord, this guy is a maniac. Warfuck are only a duo, but their vocalist/guitarist Nicolas Latreille compensates by being in four different places at any given moment. How does he do it?!
In an event of pure luck (or was it destiny?), the stars aligned so that I could witness Warfuck’s performance not just once, but two times. After spending a lovely afternoon at Nauthólsvík a few days post-Deathfest, I needed to make an emergency munchies stop at Bónus. Heading back to my car, I heard some racket from down the street and went to investigate. I stumbled across a DIY show in somebody’s basement and, lo and behold, there stood Warfuck in all their glory.
To see Warfuck for a second time was akin to getting attacked by the same grizzly bear, twice. Sadly, there wasn’t as much room for him to run around like a freshly beheaded chicken, but he still got the kiddos moshing in a room the size of my toenail.
The “Troopers”: Dodecahedron (NL)
If you’ve never listened to Dodecahedron, you’re doing yourself a great disservice. They’ve put out some of the most menacing music I’ve heard to date, and they go so hard in their performance that they transcend consciousness.
I don’t mean their music makes you trip balls… Dodecahedron’s guitarist literally passed out on stage a couple songs into their set! People proceeded to not give a shit for several seconds until his band mates realized, “Hey, where’d the guitar go?” A “short break” was announced, during which police and ambulance arrived to check on the guy, who was now standing on his own and insisted they keep playing.
What a champ. However, despite their guitarist’s protests, Dodecahedron were offered a spot the next evening and they opted to postpone their set. Apparently it was just a round-about way of saving the best for last, cause they fucking SLAMMED.
Disclaimer: my recall of this event may be slightly skewed. I was away from the stage lurking in the losers’ corner, and everyone was speaking Icelandic, so I actually had no idea what was going on. A nice man from Latvia filled me in after the fact. He very well could have been full of shit, so take the above with a grain of salt.
Deadliest Mosh Pit: Une Misère (IS)
Auditory onslaught? Check. Beer and broken glass all over the floor? Check. Zealous Icelandians crazed about local music? Hell yeah.
Each converging to create a treacherous morass from which none could escape unscathed? One wrong move, and it would’ve been a bloodbath.
Une Misère also released a new single recently, and it’s pretty damn good. Check it out.
Honorary “We Made A Music Video While We Were Here” Gold Stars: Skinned and Psycroptic (USA, AUS)
Wow, a gold star! Skinned and Psycroptic certainly aren’t the first bands to film in Iceland, but they still did it, impressive in its own rite. Between the Reykjavik cemetery, the black sand beaches and the rugged scenery, Iceland is the perfect backdrop for a kickass metal shoot. Can’t wait to see the final products.
(Both bands destroyed the stage, by the way. Denver’s Skinned played a mighty fine set from which my neck will never recover, and everybody already knows that Psycroptic are really, really good.)
Best in Show: Dead Congregation (GRE)
Is this selection based purely off my own personal bias? Yup, it sure is. However, it seems like most of the audience agreed — Dead Congregation were called back for an encore after a roller coaster of a set that started off slow and doomy and eventually devolved into rip-your-teeth out death metal. There was nothing more to it other than Dead Congregation doing what they do best, plain and simple.
In an effort to recognize the diversity of their lineups, the festival has officially changed its name going forward to the Reykjavik Metalfest. Next year’s lineup thus far features Napalm Death, Hamferð and a plethora of Icelandic bands. You can bet your balls I’m gonna be there. My heart is very much still in Iceland, and I don’t think it’s coming back anytime soon.
If you’d like to read an in-depth review of the 2018 Deathfest that covers all the bands, check out the Reykjavik Grapevine’s awesome write-ups from both day 1 and day 2.