Sigur Ros is a very special band to me. Many of their songs and albums are on my all time top lists. Normally, they take their time between releases, with the gap between their previous two album being 4 years long. Holding to this pattern, I was genuinely surprised when I heard that they were going to be releasing a new album, just a year after their underrated masterpiece “Valtari”. They announced that they lost a member and were working on a something different and more focused. Being that I tend to gravitate to their more ambient, ethereal releases, with ( ) being my favorite album of theirs, I was a little bit nervous. When I saw that only one song broke the 7 minute mark, I became more nervous. Not to say I dislike anything this band has done, but I would prefer endless, hazy, dreamscapes over “Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust” any day. My first listen through of Brennisteinn regained my hope. It was dark. It was intense. It was different, but good. I had hope that the rest of the album would live up to the greatness of the single, and in many ways it did. With Kveikur, Sigur Ros has released their heaviest, darkest, and most structured release to date. But, does it stand up to the rest of their catalog?
Throughout the entire album, there is a heaviness and a darkness that finds itself in all sorts of unconventional places. A heaviness that resides in clattering cymbals and, rough distorted bass. A darkness that reverberates inside of soaring, pained bowed guitar licks and overloaded vocals. Songs like Brennisteinn and the title track Kveikur are by far the best examples of this new and unique take on heavy. It still shows its face in the lighter and more positive songs as well. This new sound is nothing short of incredible. It stands out from their long and impressive collection of music as something new and necessary, while still connecting to their legacy. One of the songs that best shows this combination of innovation and legacy is the song Hrafntinna. It has the clattering and harsh cymbals and floating background dissonance of their darkest moments on this album, yet it also has that heartmelting beauty that Sigur Ros is well-known for. As it builds you feel connected with each haunting line until it finally reaches its peak and you are flooded with a rush of sound and emotion that you immediately connect with on a very intimate and primal level. This album is everything I want out of a more focused and structured Sigur Ros release. From start to finish, Sigur Ros has made one of their finest albums to date. It does not hold the emotional weight of ( ) of Valtari, but in comparison to their other more structured albums, this is by far the best because of its ability to capture some of the emotion of those more sprawling releases, and fit it inside of these more typical and concise song structures.