Támsins likam by HamferðRelease date: January 12, 2018
Label: Metal Blade Records
If you’ve been following Faroese doomsters Hamferð’s career to date, Támsins likam (“Body of Mist”) is a doubly exciting release; not only is their second full length album their biggest to date, being their first release for an major international label (Metal Blade), but it’s also the culmination of the conceptual trilogy that began back in 2010 with their debut EP Vilst er síðsta fet. Luckily, the album is also the perfect place for newcomers to the band to start, as the climax of the concept’s narrative is also its beginning. The three releases tell, in reverse, the suitably miserable story of a man (on his deathbed when we first encountered him on the EP), looking back with regret at his treatment of his family. The first album, 2013’s Evst, stepped back, looking at the events leading to his death, while Támsins likam both starts and finishes the story as its protagonist unwittingly drives his wife away by his coldness following the death of their son, which triggers the whole narrative. It isn’t a laugh a minute kind of album.
The concept – although it doubtless has personal significance for the songwriters – is mainly important to the listener (especially the non-Faroese-speaking listener) in that it provides a framework for the band to write songs which are epic, intense and emotionally involving. Musically, Hamferð’s brand of doom is strongly influenced by the melodic death/doom of the 90s, obvious reference points being bands like My Dying Bride and Paradise Lost; a key asset being vocalist Jón Aldará, whose voice is equally powerful in both its soaring, mournful clean and deep, raw styles. Despite these parallels, from Vilst er síðsta fet (released by the TUTL label, based in their home town of Tórshavn, and well worth seeking out) onwards, Hamferð’s musical style has been distinctively their own. Heavy (obviously), melancholy (ditto), often complex, and with impressive choral passages, the band’s melodies and atmospheres have an entirely different feel from the bands mentioned above, perhaps due to their Faroese heritage. Indeed, although the two bands are musically almost entirely unalike, the band’s gift for unusual melodies is shared by fellow Tórshavn band Týr, although Hamferð’s music is less overtly folk-influenced.
Támsins likam consists of six epic songs of windswept majesty and haunting gloom. The tunes are mid-to-slow paced, heavy but always melodic, so the feel is rarely achingly slow or crushingly depressing in the funeral doom sense. In this sense they are closer to classic or even progressive doom, although interestingly, for a doom band, Hamferð’s music is not especially riff-based. Instead the songs are carefully composed, ebbing and flowing seamlessly through loud and quiet, clean and heavy sections, gaining momentum in an addictive and very satisfying way. Occasionally, as on ‘Hon Syndrast’, the sound shows a slight black metal influence in its use of dissonant chords and spiky melodic elements, but it’s always smoothly integrated into the overall Hamferð sound. Though the band’s playing is admirably tight and imaginative (with impressively economical and un-showy leads), it tends to be Aldará’s voice that is the outstanding element, whether growling in a strangely smooth way (kind of like Opeth’s Mikael Åkerfeldt) or soaring despondently over the band’s epic music. It’s a brilliantly realised, highly polished sound and the quality of the songs absolutely deserves it.
There’s been a lot of good doom around recently, but even so, Támsins likam is outstanding. From the opening atmospherics of ‘Fylgisflog’ to the profound silence that the brilliantly solemn and tense ‘Vápn Í Anda’ leaves in its wake, it’s an epic, involving, idiosyncratic and hugely rewarding album that gets 2018 off to a thrillingly gloomy start.