Árstíðir lífsins & Carpe Noctem – Aldrnari (Ván Records)Friday, 12th June 2020
There is magic in a well-executed split release. It’s an opportunity for two (…or more!) groups to either work toward a common thematic goal or join together otherwise unreleased work. If one were so inclined to dig back far enough in the Blistering archives, you’d find my 2012 review of a Deafheaven and Bosse de Nage, an example of the latter. Again in 2013 Cough and Windhand put out the devastating Reflection of the Negative. Earlier this spring in the midst of plague-induced upheaval, a stunning example of a thematically linked split graced us: Aldrnari.
The Icelandic black metal scene has been in a dominate position the last few years and if this split is any indication, that is not going to change any time soon. Aldrnari is a pair of large, complex, historically derived compositions that lean into the progressive without any of the meandering or instrumental brinkmanship. My introduction to this split came via Carpe Noctem, whose 2018 release Vitrun is a regular feature in my rotation and a stellar example of the style. The surest surprise followed, through my introduction to Árstíðir lífsins. How have I been sleeping on this band for so long?
Two tracks, each sporting 22+ minute run times and both steeped in epic storytelling tied to Norse mythology and Icelandic history. High tension and higher drama, several dozen small armageddons playing out in long-form visions of the apocalypse – it should not be surprising that these works are dense. Árstíðir lífsins employs a more diverse array of sounds, Carpe Noctem cuts from a starker cloth. Unsurprisingly, the two bands share members (in turn, sharing members with exemplars of the Icelandic scene). Aldrnari is expansive, much more expansive than its status as a split and its “mere” two tracks would lead an unwary listener to believe.
That is the magic in this split: two powerhouse works constructed with similar parts but with appreciably different results. Within these works are stark vistas and bleak undertakings. Epic gets thrown around where it is not necessary but that is not the case with Aldrnari. Drink in that stunning cover art and embrace what is possible in the colossal.