Guest Album Review: Volcano Victims

Berlin-based Icelandic artist Volcano Victims released their first full-length album on February 12th 2021. Liam McArdle, fellow musician from Canada, reviews the album for us track by track:

Review by Liam McArdle

Volcano Victims is a fun yet oddly melancholic record dealing with heartbreak and the passing of time. The record makes a departure from the dark, mellow vibes from their older material and throws in some carefree elements of typical Berlin summers.

Gaui, the Icelandic brains behind Volcano Victims, has been working on this album for a long time (some songs date back to 2004). But allow me to be blunt: It’s well worth the wait.

Opening track Canicular Years

The album opens with the very catchy Canicular Years. The song has a way of being modern and upbeat while using some great 60s tropes, most importantly Motown-style backups (vocal duties here and almost everywhere provided by Hanna Magdalena Gödl) and surf rock lead guitar soaked in reverb. For very good reason, Canicular Years was released as the album’s single and its accompanying music video captures a much-needed sense of playful silliness. The song ends with battling guitars and the album moves to a slightly more serious vibe with Things Turn Out Alright.

Track 2: Things Turn Out Alright

This second track ventures into a kind of modern indie jam, a clear nod to Warpaint, by using bass guitar as the lead melodic instrument while guitars take on more of a background role. Lyrically this song hits a real nerve: “Let me be myself, and I will be yours truly. Let me be myself I’m tired of pretending.” Was the struggle of finding the one ever put more succinctly?

Tracks 3 and 4: Beginning of the 80s and Oxford Street

Beginning of the 80s is where the album dives into influences from the era of the song’s title. The synths that serve as sonic sweetener, the bass gets distorted, things became metallic (but not metal), and quintessentially British. Some early Joy Division and the Smiths come to mind. The proceeding Oxford Street is the best compilation of Volcano Victims’ melodic and melancholic devices. The song embodies the cold, darkness of Gaui’s Icelandic homeland as well as any November of his adopted home, Berlin.

Shimmering Light

The album moves forward with the upbeat Revolutionary Resolution which has the Warpaint feel from earlier in the album, however the vocal performance is shared by Gaui and Linus Kallin. This track stands out because of the spacey funky vibe, almost reminiscent of some 70s Parliament. Shimmering Light adds more variation to the jammy feel of the album with some smart panning on the vocals to emerge the listener into a kind of trance.

Post Storm, Fool and Closer

This is where the album starts to slow down here tempo wise with Post Storm. The only low point of the album for me is the following song, Fool. The instrumental sections are a little looser than in other parts of the album and it’s the only song where the drums could have been tighter. However, Closer gets the album back on track because of the trance-like vibes and wacky vocal arrangements.

Closing track Augnablik

The album’s final track Augnablik is a light rocker, worthy of a thousand lighters held into the air. Sonically it feels different because of its Mac Demarco vibe and it’s in Gaui’s native Icelandic. Gaui says the lyrics are about “all those little moments or chances you have in life”, arguably the album’s leitmotif. Volcano Victims have put out a very strong debut record.

You can tell that it’s musical pallet spans and mixes musical eras that wouldn’t seem to make sense together at first, such as sometimes 2000s electric guitar sounds or the 1980s of Gaui’s childhood, which is referenced all over the album. Particularly the first half of the album is packed with songs that have a memorable melody, tragic lyrics or both.

The glue that keeps the album together is Hanna Magdalena Gödl’s versatile voice, the charming instrumental sections and the memorable lines which encapsulate the passage of time. When Hanna isn’t singing, there is a musical break or interlude and the listener is kept drawn in. You get the sense that you don’t know where things are going.

The album keeps you listening with its twists and turns and makes you think of all the love you’ve ever had and how to cherish the time you have. What’s better than that?

About Volcano Victims

Gaui is the brains behind the music. Born and raised in Iceland, he has been writing songs for a long time in his home town Reykjavik but it wasn’t until he moved to Berlin he met like-minded people and started to play his music as Volcano Victims.

His music was deeply influenced by Iceland’s dark and cold winters, often drowned in melancholia and gentle melodies. Since then his music has shifted to more uplifting tunes influenced by Berlin’s carefree summers. It’s these different soundscapes and colours that makes Volcano Victims a memorable tapas-like experience. Find out more in our interview with Gaui.

Listen to Volcano Victims on Spotify:

Review by Liam McArdle for Minnis2Society.

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