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Meandering Atmospheres, Amateur Black Metal - 60%

TheStormIRide, December 9th, 2012

Dynfari, the Icelandic duo comprised of Jóhann Örn and Jón Emil, play a very depressive and brooding style of atmospheric black metal. The band's second full length in their two year history, “Sem Skugginn”, shows the band playing meandering and wandering atmospheric black metal for nine tracks coming just six seconds shy of seventy-four minutes. Most of the massive running time is spent slowly building atmosphere with subtle keyboard lines, samples, slow chord progressions and slower than thou drumming.

Although Dynfari is an atmospheric black metal band, they're strong point is not black metal. The band excels at creating a brooding and depressive atmosphere with long, wandering passages that slowly gain momentum. During each introduction, you can feel the atmosphere getting thicker and heavier, as the music slowly builds into something heavier. The opener, “ Glötun”, takes a whopping 4:30 to show any traces of actual instrumentation, and, even then, it sticks with a slow, sludge like plodding coupled with minimalistic drumming and trudging chord progressions for its entirety, shying away from the advertised black metal.

As the band begins to wander through “Sem Skugginn”, you feel a sense of schizophrenia. After a short ambient introduction, “Hjarmyrkvi” delves into blast beat drumming and mid tempo trem picking, while occasional unintelligible rasps and snarls come from the microphone. The guitars retain a hollow and eerie tone through the faster section, which helps with some continuity, but after about two and half minutes a single distorted chord and hoarse shout resonate for several seconds until the black metal fades away, with more minimalistic drumming played behind a clean, melodic guitar line. The melodic line builds back into the same sludgy plodding that the opener was filled with. Being that “Hjarmyrkvi” is fifteen minutes long, it allows the band to stretch their legs a bit and meddle with another, shorter black metal section in the middle and then slow it back down and add some subtle lead lines towards the end, eventually trailing off with a slow, melodic guitar line and some ambient background noises.

That's pretty much how “Sem Skuggin” operates. Dynfari play a long atmospheric stretch, with plodding chord progressions and ambient backgrounds that slowly build in strength until a black metal section pops up and then the music fades back into plodding ambiance. Dynfari excel at creating a bleak and harrowing atmosphere, with the slower sections plodding along with no instrument really shining through. The true strength is Dynfari's ability to channel hopelessness, bleakness and sorrow into these atmospheric passages.

The black metal sections, on the other hand, are rather sloppily played and come across as very amateur. The standard trem lines come across as a third rate Darkthrone ripoff. The tone, while, like I mentioned earlier, haunting and eerie, comes across as dull when compared to most black metal acts. The drumming is tinny and clanging with a muffled bass drum on the heavier sections. Mostly opting for blast beats during the black metal sections, the drums sound very forced and unnatural, especially when compared with the slower, more atmospheric sections which seem so relaxed. The vocals are rather monotone, with a raspy, harsh snarl that lies somewhere in the mid range. Thankfully, the vocals are not a key factor in the band's delivery, as more would most likely be a huge detractor. The amateur style, surprisingly, does pay off for Dynfari with the massively intense “Myrkrasalir”. The sloppy guitar lines and tin can drumming coalesce to form a great track that, while weaving in and out of atmospheric sections, retains a very harsh and harrowing sound throughout, with the treble-laden guitar lines siding perfectly with a Fenriz-style of drumming. All of the elements of “Sem Skugginn” that are the band's downfalls actually merge into an enjoyable track that holds a certain charm that nods to the founders of the genre. Unfortunately, the magic isn't captured during every black metal section.

Dynfari's bleak and desolate wandering, sludgy ambiance is the band's strongest point. The schizophrenic bouncing back and forth between long, winding passages and amateurish black metal makes this a rather hard album to digest in one sitting. At nearly seventy-four minutes, the band crams a lot of music into one release. With only one really enjoyable black metal track (out of nine total), Dynfari may want to stick with their atmospheric wandering. Hopefully their next release shows the amateurism going by the wayside, as the band has the elements to be good; they're just not there yet.