Unique classifiers are becoming more and more common in the extreme metal scene, not least of all in the realm of doom, where recently all manner of genre-blending concoctions have been sprouting up on a regular basis. Hamferð have been exercising this practice since their formation in 2008, dubbing their sound ‘Faroese doom metal’ – a name that draws attention to the influence their homeland’s unique folklore, subpolar climate and rugged terrain has had on the group’s windswept funeral doom. The six-piece originally hail from Tórshavn on the island of Streymoy, one of eighteen that comprise the Faroe Islands.
“We are strongly inspired by our homeland, in several ways,” explains vocalist Jón Aldará. “The Faroese environment is harsh, with unpredictable and sometimes violent weather, rugged landscapes and sparse but breath-taking ecology, all framed by an endless, frothing ocean. It inspires many Faroese artists, and we draw quite heavily from it for both our music and our lyrics.” This inspiration is rampant throughout new album Támsins Likam, which forms the final part of a trilogy of releases that begun with 2010 EP Vilst Er Síðsta Fet. One can almost hear the wind-chill in the desolate melodies, which, together with colossal riffs and dynamic, towering vocals, set the basis for Hamferð’s music. However, the Faroe Islands’ rocky landscape and dramatic climate are not all that the group take from their place of inception.
“Faroese culture is very much shaped by the environment, and much of our traditional songs, hymns and folklore are concerned with its limitations and challenges,” begins Aldará. “For Hamferð, we have been creating a mythology that mirrors those aspects of our culture, particularly with respect to the fantastical elements of our folklore.” In the case of Támsins Likam, an ambitious narrative concept is informed by this mythology. Where their previous album, 2013’s Evst, featured the mysterious, elf-like Huldufólk, this time around the story is driven by the Nyrkur, which, according to Aldará, “is a prevalent figure in the folklore of many Germanic countries (Necken), often appearing as a shapeshifting water spirit. There is also a Faroese version of this, living in remote lakes and luring in poor, unsuspecting souls to drown.”
Chronologically speaking, the album’s story is a prequel to the band’s previous releases. “Támsins Likam reaches back to the beginning of it all,” Aldará clarifies. “Before the events of the previous albums, and the husband character is the same person as the father in Evst and the dying man in Vilst Er Síðsta Fet. So, the trilogy has been released in a reverse chronological sequence and chronicles the life and tragedy of a single man.”
This time around, said man is not having a good time. Hamferð’s concept albums are not ambiguous affairs, vaguely tied together by an enveloping concept, rather they sonically reflect the toils of their subjects, whilst the Faroese lyrics passionately tell the story. “At its core, Támsins Likam is the story of a husband and wife who have lost a child to disease and are struggling to process the grief,” the frontman describes. “The man is unable to deal with reality and becomes distant and cold, shunning his wife and leaving her unable to work through it together with him. She seeks solitude in nature, away from their suffocating home, and there meets a mysterious figure. The strange being gives her comfort and grants her beautiful visions of a wondrous world beyond her grey existence. The husband discovers their meeting, becomes mad with jealousy and starts following them. But neither he nor his wife know the true nature of this being, and they struggle with their inner selves while unwittingly being led through the mountains towards a distant destination at tragic heights.”
As the album’s narrative shows, Hamferð are unique in their lyrical content as well as their sound. Perhaps refreshingly in a gimmick-laden music scene, though, they are not ones to milk their esoteric qualities for superficial commercial gain. Cynics may say that their unique classifier of ‘Faroese doom metal’ is little more than an attempt to seem ‘different’, but there’s most definitely a distinctive air to the six-piece’s sound, and they refuse to take advantage of that without a degree of integrity. “Our use of Faroese language and imagery certainly grants us a particular concept that is unlikely to be found anywhere else in metal music,” Aldará admits. “But, although having this somewhat unique expression probably gives us some promotional advantage, we try not to wield that advantage lazily. Everything has to complement and elevate the music.”
For Hamferð, their originality is all a part of the quest to innovate. “We believe that our band’s concept is the perfect platform for building something new and exciting,” says the vocalist. “Of course, it is extremely difficult to create music that is totally unlike anything else, but we take that as a challenge! Personally, I would not be comfortable with working hard on a band that is uninterested in innovation. That’s what side projects are for *laughs*.”
“We try to avoid any focus on particular influences,” he clarifies. “Since our goal is to create something as uniquely Hamferð as possible.” The band’s sound, in truth, comes from an amalgamation of sources, from their origins as an homage to ‘90s death-doom to their fascination with the “grand scope and meticulous arrangement” of classical music and the “morose traditionalism” of psalms and hymns. “On the other side,” Aldará adds. “We are also fans of the more rebellious and innovative side of progressive rock and metal, which we like to incorporate as well. “
The sextet’s will to create something fresh and exciting has led to producing their most accomplished work to date. The LP’s intuitive songwriting sees the band execute a disquiet harmony between crushing metallic weight and atmospheric grandeur. “Everyone wants to think that their latest work is their best,” explains Aldará. “But comparing with previous music is not always so straightforward. Certainly, we have improved as musicians, and our vision for the band becomes increasingly clear for each album, so in that sense, this is our most complete work yet. But, we are also very proud of our earlier albums. We try to bend our established sound into new shapes, instead of trying to create improved versions of old ones. That is what we have attempted with Támsins Likam, and we feel that it perfectly represents the path we intended to go after Evst.”
You’d expect that such an expansive album would take it out of you, but Hamferð are already raring to get on the road. “We will be touring as extensively as possible for Támsins Likam,” the frontman claims. “And we are extremely excited to see how people respond to the album and our live presentation of it. Our next European tour starts on February 2nd, and there will be a few festivals and hopefully another tour later in the year.”
As if that wasn’t enough, though, the band’s next musical endeavour is already in the initial stages of pre-production. There were five years between the band’s previous albums, but whilst Támsins Likam is expansive enough to warrant another break in songwriting, Hamferð look set to use the momentum to propel themselves into the next stage of their evolution. “We already have a lot of ideas for the next album and have started mapping it out,” the frontman tells us. “So there is no reason to expect that we will rest on our laurels anytime soon.”
Words: George Parr