Hamferð – Men Gu​ð​s hond er sterk (Metal Blade Records)

Monday, 1st April 2024
Rating: 9.5 / 10

My journey with Hamferð began with the Summer Breeze festival in 2014. Adorned in matching black suits and ties, they tore through a four song set that included tracks from Vilst er síðsta fet and Evst with gusto. Embracing an intricate, melody-driven approach to death/doom has served the sextet from the Faroe Islands well. Their 2018 album Támsins likam further ingrained them in the metal lexicon, and it would be a six-year wait for their return. During said time, three of the members dropped an EP for their death metal project Goresquad, and lead singer Jón Aldará was part of one of the very best albums of 2021 via Iotunn’s Across All Worlds. Nevertheless, we’re glad Hamferð have returned with Men Gu​ð​s hond er sterk.

Conceptually, the album tells the story of a famous whaling catastrophe that occurred in the town of Sandvík in 1915. Two boats ultimately sank, with 14 crew members lost, while the village watched in horror from the coast. A story that has long been remembered in Faroese history, and we can think of no better band to pay homage in a musical fashion. True to form, opening salvo “Ábær” swells with towering riffs and coarse growls, applying substantial heft early on. The song truly begins to shine when Aldará’s soulful clean croon enters the fray. There aren’t many who possess a voice as stirring with such an inimitable tonality, and he’s in top form from start to finish. The mood is set, and the listener is in for a special work of artistry with Men Gu​ð​s hond er sterk.

Continuing as the tempo slows further into doom-infused depths is “Rikin.” Flowing like the rough waters described in the subject at hand, this segment is an emotional trek that is felt increasingly as you’re immersed deeper. “Marrusorg” is a tad more subdued, moving between low-key clean passages and immense distorted riffing. A calm before the proverbial storm, in some ways. By this juncture, the listener is fully ingrained by what Hamferð are providing. The vibe of impending disaster smoothly continues in the often hypnotic “Glæman” as Aldará continues to show a range of both voice and pure emotion that is difficult to give justice to in mere words.

A slightly blackened touch within the guitar work emerges with “Í hamferð,” exploding with tensive ferocity throughout. Haunting defines “Fendreygar” as it serves as the setup to the monstrous “Hvølja.” The moment where all goes wrong in the story is also the darkest, most poignantly heavy entry on Men Gu​ð​s hond er sterk. Punishing and merciless, the moment when Aldará painfully cries out at the 2:32 mark as the rhythms pound away represent the darkest, most harrowing occasion here.

The album finishes with a recording of a survivor, according to the press materials, which came from a 1950s radio interview, giving his rendition of what happened and the long-lasting impact felt by the village’s inhabitants. We don’t speak Faroese, but there is a translation in English with the album. Keyboardist Esmar Joensen gained approval to use this recording by visiting the survivor’s daughter in that same village, to which she gave her permission to use it. We’re glad she did, as it’s a poetically depicted piece of history of which Hamferð entangles beautifully with an acoustic medley to complete the album.

A significant note that was doubtlessly a major factor in the record’s cohesiveness is the fact that the band recorded the songs together instead of using more modern techniques of laying down pieces individually. This approach was a masterstroke, cultivating an organic effort that will be difficult to recreate.

Men Gu​ð​s hond er sterk is Hamferð at their finest; an exquisite remembering of a tragic event, memorialized with astounding care and divine songwriting prowess. Truth be told, it’s not an easy listen, nor should it be – this sort of album is meant to be challenging. To those who partake, Hamferð reminds one of what makes music so powerful and enduring.

Hamferð on Facebook

[fbcomments width="580"]