Kaelan Mikla - "Litil Dyr" / "Manadans" / "Reykjavik til stader" (track review)

Photo: Hafsteinn Viðar Ársælsson / Courtesy of the artist

Kaelan Mikla have captured the musical essence of Iceland, and the resulting sound is unique and mesmerizing.

Kaelan Mikla are an Icelandic trio whose sound encapsulates the best elements of post-punk, synthpop, death metal and darkwave. They first performed at a poetry slam, and the poetic infuses their vocal sound, even if English-speakers can't understand it. Spoken-word Icelandic is mesmerizing -- there's a reason the epics were chanted -- and when Laufey Soffia breaks into harsh screaming, situated somewhere in that seething chasm between metal and punk, the unique cadence and rhythm of Icelandic lifts her angry outbursts away from the guttural of everyday metal and renders it a candescent eruption of lilting, hypnotic anger.

They've let loose a teaser of three songs in advance of a fall album release. "Litil Dyr" opens with gentle keys and soft voices, sliding into the beautiful nonchalence of post-punk bass. And suddenly out of nowhere erupts a scream, equal parts rage and despair, twisting and turning through the undulations of the Icelandic tongue. In the background, the post-punk rhythms shrug on, while a second vocal line, confident and assured, smoothly intersperses the preternatural wailing.

"Manadans" opens with soft guitars and a gentle vocal recitation, before querulously rising several octaves; dropping back down unpredictably, and then screeching into rage again, wrapped all the while around the steady strumming of post-punk guitar.

"Reykjavik til stader" opens with atmospheric noise, clanging drums, and a distant, distorted echo of vocals. If there was such a thing as drone-folk-punk, this is it.

Anyone who's been to Iceland may understand the source of the band's unique sound. There is an ethereal beauty to the land, a land of jagged rocks dreamed into being from the imagination of giants; of unearthly waterfalls wreathed in mist and rainbow; of vast grassy fields that stretch endlessly into eternal glaciers. The beauty of the place roots you with an immortalizing sense of harmonic calm, until it erupts with periodic rage in volcanic fury and blinding ice-scapes. Kaelan Mikla have captured the musical essence of this land, and the resulting sound is unique and mesmerizing. Their debut album Manadans, originally a limited-edition cassette, is being re-released this fall on Artoffact Records.

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