Skálmöld’s reign of terror

Skálmöld was founded in August 2009 and has since become the biggest metal act in Iceland. Skálmöld plays music that could be described as “battle metal”, a potion of epic Viking metal, old school death and thrash metal, entwined with the Icelandic heritage. The lyrics are all written under the strict rules of the ancient Icelandic poetry and in?uenced by the heathen roots of this Nordic nation. The outcome is a powerful mixture of heavy metal and heroic Sagas, erupting from the boiling core of the frozen island. The band also puts on a killer show, rock tight and energetic.

Skálmöld (the name literally means “reign of terror”) is travelling through Europe until the middle of October with Finnish metal band Finntroll following the latter’s latest album release. We got hold of Skálmöld’s bassist Snæbjörn Ragnarsson who told us all about their big tour. “Two years ago Skálmöld travelled through Europe with Finntroll and we became good friends with the band members. That’s basically why they asked us on this tour. One should never underestimate the ale-forged friendships between Icelanders and Finns,” says Snæbjörn. “The plan is to play 37 gigs in 39 days, travelling in a car that has bunk-beds for us in the back. Fortunately we will be travelling mostly at night. We’re also travelling with Týr, a metal band from the Faeroe Islands and I hear some local bands might be joining us on concerts when we get to Western Europe.”

The question of language
Skálmöld, Finntroll and Týr all play heavy metal laced with historic and literary heritage wrapped in their own native language. Although each has its own style their music is bathed in a kind of heroic splendor. Skálmöld has received praise for their use of the Icelandic language in their lyrics, but does that mean that their non-Icelandic audiences are missing out? “I would be lying if I said that they under-stood the lyrics but every once in a while we meet people who really delve into the meaning of our songs. As for the general listener I believe this foreign effect is working for us. While they don’t understand the lyrics there’s a unique quality and a certain mystique to them, so even though we are expanding abroad, our songs will always be in Icelandic,” promises Snæbjörn. English lyrics are definitely not on the horizon for Skálmöld but their albums that have been published outside of Iceland have included the basic thread of the songs in prose, explaining each part of the work.

Do you expect more projects to follow after this tour?
“Usually tours like these leave an impact. We are getting to know a lot of people, networking like crazy, and hopefully some of it will result in more pro jects, tours, invitations to music festivals etc. Of course we aim to captivate everyone that comes to see us during our tour. The European audiences have been great and one thing they do better than our Icelandic audience is that they show up on time. This is why we've been playing to a full house every night even if we’re not the main act. And the energy from the audience is great. We wouldn't allow anything else.”

Back to hard reality – hardly!
Skálmöld can be expected back to Iceland around the middle of October and the members of the band are mostly looking forward to sleeping in a bed that doesn't move and shake all night (and one that’s wider than 60 cm). “Most of us miss our family and it will be fun getting back home and start working, going through the aftermath of this tour. Then I guess the cold, hard reality will set in; we go back to work, mop the floors, put money in the parking meter and complain about the weather, but we do have a fun project that we are really looking forward to; a collaboration with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra.”

What does that collaboration entail?
“Well, basically we will play our music along with the orchestra. Super-orchestrator Haraldur Sveinbjörnsson has been arranging our songs, adapting them and even adding to them for the orchestra. We have emphasized that these concerts must add something to our music instead of just becoming “the symphonic version”. These things have a tendency to drown out the classical part so it can’t really come into its own. We’re not going to let that happen. This is a massive project and the two concerts that have been advertised for November 28 and 29 have already sold out. I am now at liberty to share that an extra date has been added on November 30 and we are absolutely thrilled about this project. The real rehearsals start in November but a lot of this work is done be beforehand. We have been getting some indication how this is all going to sound with the help of various music and computer programs and based on the goose bumps it’s raised on our hardened hides I can’t wait to see the final results. It’s going to be absolutely magnificent!”


Photos: Curtesy of Skálmöld