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A beautiful journey for meditation - 85%

SlayerDeath666, April 14th, 2017

Iceland is a country known for being misnamed, doing great work with geothermal energy, and full of volcanoes. It seems like the perfect formula to be a breeding ground for lots of awesome metal but somehow, this has not been the case over the years. Here are Dynfari to prove us wrong though. The Four Doors of the Mind is their fourth album of atmospheric black metal greatness. The album explores a particular theory on how the mind copes with pain as well as musings on human existence from a 20th century Icelandic existentialist poet, making for a very compelling concept.

While this album’s sound is rooted in atmospheric black metal, there is also a significant post-rock vibe coming from these songs. It may not be clearly evident at first but it definitely permeates the songs on this album. Many of the riffs are clearly influenced by that world and so are some of the extended interludes. This may be a turn-off to some traditional black metal fans but for those of us who dig that sort of thing, it is a welcome approach to black metal. Plus, this album still contains more traditional black metal sections like the one around the two minute mark of “Sorgarefni segi eg þér.” Of course, the song goes right into post-rock after about two minutes of being more black metal influence but it works quite well for Dynfari.

Most of this album is driven by slow but very deliberate riffs packed with plenty of melody. This is combined with intricate lead work that is absolutely exquisite, adding tons of atmosphere to the album. This is particularly evident on “2nd Door: Forgetting,” where the lead work/soloing is actually quite fast at times but still very thoughtful in its approach. In contrast, the lead work on the album’s closer, “4th Door: Death,” is slow but thoughtful and incredibly melodic. Even the tremolo picked riffs on this track are packed with melody. What really takes this album to new heights is the wonderfully crafted acoustic work, especially when juxtaposed with the soul-crushing riffs and atmospheric lead work. It is nothing terribly complex but it is so beautifully crafted and thoughtful that it greatly enhances the listening experience.

The drumming on this album is fairly diverse and very well done. Jon’s fills are quite creative and filled with a sense of purpose while also exhibiting a strong sense of rhythm and great percussion. Compared to some of his peers, Jon is not quite as fast in the more traditional black metal sections but he really shines in the more exploratory, post-rock influenced sections with superb cymbal work and slow-motion double kick. Jon is the tortoise where most black metal drummers are the hare.

The execution of the concept is interesting because there is narration on most of these tracks which talks about the various doors of the mind and what they mean. Each door of the mind has its own track with mostly acoustic interludes in between except for “Sorgarefni segi eg þér,” which is a dark but brilliant composition about grief. While some of the tracks feel like they could have been fleshed out more, Dynfari’s compositional skills make each track a fascinating endeavor. The most successful execution of the concept is “3rd Door: Madness” because there is enough narration to provide the listener with background and great riffs and compositional skill to convey the sense of urgency that comes with madness. However, the true pinnacle of The Four Doors of the Mind is its massive closer, “4th Door: Death,” which clocks in at 13:59 and truly explores every option there is to be explored in all the best ways.

The vocals on this album are very well executed but more importantly, the approach is well-conceived. As you would expect, this primary vocal approach is harsh black metal influenced screams. They provide plenty of dark atmosphere for these songs and help convey a sense of loss and anguish in the music. However, it is the clean vocals which are most intriguing as they range from throated cleans to chants, injecting a sense of truth and reality into the darkness of these songs. Despite this sense of darkness, The Four Doors of the Mind is a rather pleasant listen which is a credit to Dynfari master craftsmanship. A concept like this requires a delicate balance between light and dark in order to be successful and fortunately for fans, this album has just the right balance to be a compelling and beautiful 48 minutes of music.

- originally written for The Metal Observer