Last year, deep in the chasms of underground metal, something special happened that is already promising to deliver potent results. Alexander Poole (Skáphe, Chaos Moon) and the secretive HV Lyngdal (Wormlust), two crafters of dark, hallucinogenic black metal, decided to unite and form their own label. It would be called Mystískaos. At present, there are only four bands on the label: Skáphe, Wormlust, Ljáin, and Afsprengi Satans. Yet, given the sheer caliber of the artists involved, Mystískaos seems to already be suggesting that it will end up being a label where quality reigns over quantity.
Likely due to the influence of Lyngdal, all Mystískaos bands at present, with the exception of Skáphe, are Icelandic. And it is the latest EP from Afsprengi Satans, Djöful Leg, that is on deck for discussion today. Membership in this band is difficult to discern, as cloaked and hazy as the music itself. On the Bandcamp page for Djöful Leg, an individual known only as Grafhýsk is credited with an impressive resume of guitar, percussion, woodwind, piano, violin, and vocal duty on the EP, implying that Afsprengi Satans is a one man project. However, last year, when the band’s Seiðgall debut came out, there was talk of HV Lyngdal being involved in some way as well. Indeed, the massive Metal Archives encyclopedia seems to have reinforced this idea on their page for Lyngdal, listing him as being involved in Afsprengi Satans but his role in the band being “Unknown.” This is really all the information we have to go with at the moment.
2016’s Seiðgall saw Afsprengi Satans grounded more in a thick, haunting dark ambient sound, and while Djöful Leg for the most part does as well, these two releases have considerably different sounds that without question make them stand out from each other. Whereas Seiðgall employed more of a formless ambient approach, content to simply let the listener float in a state of ghostly stasis, Djöful Leg has a greater sense of direction and appears to want to guide the listener more, primarily through an impressive use of percussion, which is the main driver of the music here. Bearing this in mind, Seiðgall and Djöful Leg are two releases that would come as good examples to show anybody who would make the claim that all ambient and drone-derived forms of music sound the same, to show them that, on the contrary, there is a lot of variation within these genres, both among different bands and sometimes even within a single band’s discography, as is the case with Afsprengi Satans.
I can’t stress how enjoyable this percussive aspect of Djöful Leg makes the music. It’s not often in the drone and ambient genres that this approach is taken. Understandably so, because the music is often meant to be more shapeless, not guided too much in one direction over another, but more so just meant to be there, if that makes sense, as something to relax and meditate upon. This inevitably means that percussion will end up being a very difficult technique to incorporate into the composition of such music. It too must take a more minimalistic, repetitive approach as does the rest of the music, so as not to compromise the trancelike atmosphere. Thankfully, Afsprengi Satans hits this nail right on the head with Djöful Leg. If anything, the addition of percussion helps to make the music more suspenseful, claustrophobic, and chaotic, as if it’s forcibly pushing the listener closer and closer to the edge of that black abyss, until finally, as the composition nears its end, you are thrown in head first, never to return.
Whenever I listen to some of the black metal or dark ambient music that has been coming out of Iceland as of late, there’s almost always a feeling that these bands are amazing byproducts of their environment, that they really capture the cold, unforgiving nature of the Icelandic landscape with their music. Afsprengi Satans is no exception. The swirly, psychedelic effects that lie behind the percussion on this EP, and form the bulk of the droney composition, almost appear to be great reverberations emanating from one of Iceland’s many volcanoes, or something similar. As the 7 minute mark nears and that spoken word bit comes into play (presumably in Icelandic), one can’t help but imagine some ancient, powerful shaman of Iceland, standing in the wilderness, wrapped tightly in animal skins to keep warm, and reciting a powerful spell amidst his followers before being plunged into the spiritual realm to acquire knowledge for his people. In short, to say that the music here does an incredible job at recreating this haunting, dreamlike aesthetic given off by Iceland’s nature would be a massive understatement.
And the most amazing part of it all? Djöful Leg is just one single track, clocking in at slightly over 18 minutes. And Seiðgall before it was just about 24 minutes. I’m reminded a bit of the rise of Bölzer in 2013 here, in terms of how Afsprengi Satans have already left such a powerful impression with so little under their belt. But this is only testament to the commendable, ensnaring power of their music. Whoever is behind this band, be it Grafhýsk, HV Lyngdal, or both, they know what the fuck they’re doing. After immersing myself in the murky waters of both this EP and Seiðgall several times now, the hype is sky high for a full length Afsprengi Satans debut, whenever it chooses to arrive. Top of the shelf stuff for its genre and deserving of more recognition not only for its interesting take on dark ambient music, but also for the fact that it greatly helps to improve the reputation of this budding Mystískaos label of Poole’s and Lyngdal’s. Keep your eyes both on the label and on Afsprengi Satans. There is no question whatsoever that both are headed towards great, boundary-breaking things.
-Ravana, July 2017.
Ravana, your host here at Cryptic Resonations, is an avid fan of experimentalism in any and all art forms, residing somewhere deep in the swamps of Southern Florida. He particularly enjoys black metal, drone, surrealist film, and transcendentalist poetry, and is also a Staffer over at Metalstorm.net.