As I’ve observed many times you’ll find every genre under the sun in Iceland, together with those you’ve never encountered before and recent articles have demonstrated that.
Hákon Hjaltalín bills himself as “a multi-instrumentalist and songwriter who brings a modern production of classic rock music, playing all the instruments as a solo musician and self-producing and inspired by the classic sounds of 60’s and 70’s rock music.”
He will release an album, ‘Shadows’, on July 28th, and ‘Battle with Mortality’ is one of two songs he selected as early singles from it.
Amusingly, he identifies himself on social media as “a struggling musician.” On the strength of this single I don’t think he’ll be struggling for long.
The instrumentation in the opening 40 seconds or so is quite beguiling and sucks you in with a layered guitar, synth, choral and piano passage accompanied by a subtle key change that will leave you wondering where this song is going. And I was racking my brains for hours trying to identify that opening guitar riff which I knew I’d “heard” before in another song (which turned out to be Highaskite’s ‘The man on the ferry’).
Then it morphs into an up-tempo ballad with distinct Beatles overtones before accelerating in the final section into a fully fledged rock guitar solo before playing out to that early piano riff.
Musically it is highly entertaining as well as being well structured, imaginative and showcasing his multi-instrumental skills.
If I have any forebodings they are in the vocal department. Hákon sings in a high-pitched voice similar to that of Labi Siffre. But it comes across as tinny here, as if he’s in a studio across the road, singing through half a dozen Covid face masks. He could be singing the Icelandic Sagas for all I know.
That might merely be a small technical hitch that he can easily resolve. I hope so because I hadn’t a chance of understanding what the song is about, which I wanted to on account of the perplexing title.
Putting that aside, if he can keep up the musical standard he has set himself with this single on the full album then it will be well worth checking out.
‘Battle with Mortality’ is out now.
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