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GlerAkur - The Mountains Are Beautiful Now (2017) - Review

Band: GlerAkur
Album title: The Mountains Are Beautiful Now
Release date: 21 July 2017
Label: Prophecy Productions

01. Augun Opin
02. Can't You Wait
03. HallAlone
04. Strings
05. Fagurt Er Á Fjöllunum Núna

Some music is meant to express a longing for something higher, a power that is merciful and good, but which is just as far away and out of reach as it is awe-inspiring; so otherworldly that it doesn’t have a say in this reality. This is music of GlerAkur...

The Mountains Are Beautiful Now is debut full-lenght album by this Icelandic act, a moniker of composer and sound designer Elvar Geir Sævarsson, a man who also works as a sound engineer at the National Theater of Iceland, and who has decided to offer to the world his unique musical creations; compositions of highly cinematic and monumental music. I was already enthused by the one year ago released EP called Can't You Wait (you can read my review over HERE), which was nominated for an Icelandic Kraumur Award, chosen by the country's top journalists and radio hosts and bestowed annually to the best albums released in Iceland (see Björk, Sigur Rós). In a way I was prepared what to expect on this album, but to be truthful, this album exceeded my expectations in a very positive way. The Mountains Are Beautiful is pure sonic art, it's a monumental album which also without any words takes you on a jorney by creating such a picturesque enviroment in listeners mind that it's almost impossible to describe it with right words.

GlerAkur's debut album is a work of epic proportions, it consists of five tracks with clocking time of almost 50 minutes of ever evolving atmospheric soundscapes. The album is inspired by The National Theatre of Iceland's 2015 production of the play "Fjalla-Eyvindur & Halla" by Jóhann Sigurjónsson. At its very heart it tells the ever-repeating story of how human beings are destroyed by the grinding forces of society, nature and love, but yet this is just a lateral fact, because everyone who'll take this musical journey will find himself in his own unique world. The Mountains Are Beautiful Now can't be really compared with anything you've heard before, but still it has that unique Icelandic character which we are already used to hear from Sigur Rós, Sólstafir, Kontinuum or HAM, to name a few, but yet GlerAkur with his hypnotic, somehow meditative sound is very different from the rest.

The Mountains Are Beautiful Now in its basis is not an easy album to grasp at the very first listen, it needs some time to flourish in its right exposure. It opens up with rather ambiental semi acoustic "Augun Opin" and already with it we are left in a world full of wonders, it's like a flight over the harsh Icelandic land, which is beautiful to see, but people must strugle to survive, and that's what you get, a beam of light that shows up over the mountains while from the other side comes the freezing storm, everything in the form of the dreamlike, droney, ambient post-rock-doom soundscapes.

The sound is often very rich, multilayered and absolutely dense, each song builds up so perfectly in ambiance, thus creating kind of a highly dynamic ever moving soundscape. "Can't You Wait", the second track on the album was already present on the debut EP, but in a different form, this is kind of a extended version with a bit different approach. Those dark atmospheric chants in the background are not so much fronted, it rather forms kind of a obscure scenery together with those thumping, rather ritualistic drums and monolithic droney wall of sound created by heavily distorted guitars. At this point I must mention that on this album GlerAkur used four guitars to create such a sound. "HallAlone" brings kind of serenity and calmness, is the most ambiental track up here, but smoothly it evolves into something that feels like if the skies opened up before the gathering storm, and slowly it prepares you for the monumental and truly epic "Strings".

"Strings" is more than 15 minutes long central part of the album, it's so fully dramatic and irresistible track that brings shivers down the spine from its hypnotic beginning until the strong, vibrant and highly evocative rather bombastic post-doom ending. The sound is always harmonic, yet multidimensional, and those slowly evolving, captivating melodies and haunting massive atmospheres go so very well together. Guitar riffs are simple though, many times repetitive into endless dimensions, but oddly enough it never becomes boring. Simply breathtaking! Then the skies get a bit more clear again with the last track named "Fagurt Er á Fjöllunum Núna", where acoustic guitar nicely intertwines with massive distorted guitars and soul shaking echoing drones.

This album is simply mesmerizing, it constantly evolves and takes the listener through many different states of emotions. There's no need for vocals, believe me that you won't miss any, because everything is so perfectly balanced and singular. This album has a very solid drive from start to finish, it's brings some of the most atmospheric soundscapes heard lately, it's so vivid and cinematic, yet deeply dark and in a way melancholic, it's simply irresistible once you get accustomed with it. I read somewhere that GlerAkur's music can be best described as if Metallica were covering the live half of Pink Floyd's 1969 album Ummagumma, and I think that the truth is not that far from there.

Review written by: T.V.
Rating: 9/10