Sem Skugginn (2012) is the second studio album to be released by Icelandic black metal duo Dynfari. While the group’s first album, a self-titled effort, was entirely self-released and limited to 50 copies Sem Skugginn sees the band now working with a label, code666 Records, which should give them better exposure for their music. Sem Skugginn is a concept album dealing with, to quote the press release “subject of humanity's decline and human depravity in relation to the striking contrasts between how humanity is just a brief moment in history compared to the eternity that is the age of the universe.” It sounds like deep stuff, although unfortunately it’s impossible for me to follow it at all since the vocals of Jóhann Örn are pretty much incomprehensible from start to finish, although I personally think this adds to the atmosphere that the release puts across to make up for it.
The music of Sem Skugginn is described as atmospheric/post black metal in its press release. But while this does go some way to explain what the album sounds like, it also sells it a little short, since there is far more going on here than black metal. In fact you’ll have to get through the whole of the opening track, Glötun, which is almost nine minutes of music, before you even hear anything close to black metal. Glötun greets the listener with ambient sounds, more peaceful and haunting than black metal could ever hope to be, and gradually morphs into something more metallic, yet still not the stated black metal. I’d say it’s closer to doom metal than anything by the time the distorted guitars kick in. When the next track, Hjartmyrkvi, kicks off at first it appears as if it will be more of the same, again starting with ambient music, before suddenly erupting into black metal, at last.
Just don’t expect it to stay that way, however. You see, Hjartmyrkvi is almost sixteen minutes in length, and the band don’t waste a second of that time, keeping their music both varied and flowing in an experimental manner. And this is only the second track. There’s a further seven to go, with a total running time of about seventy-three minutes but even by this stage it’s pretty obvious that in Sem Skugginn that Dynfari have produced something very much high grade. The best part of that is that even with such an ambitious running time, the album never loses its appeal. Sure, this most certainly isn’t for the casual listener, or even for the black metal purist as Sem Skugginn is most likely just a bit too experimental for that, but if you care for music designed to be immersed in, then Sem Skugginn is a prime example of how to make sure music the right way. An exceptional grade rating is deserved.
(Originally written for Heavy Metal Haven (http://metaltube.freeforums.org))