Hamferð: ‘Men Guðs hond er sterk’ Review

In some of the most remote and unforgiving parts of the world, there are still musical gems to uncover. This is true of Hamferð, one of around ten bands hailing from the Faroe Islands, a tiny settlement of disputed celtic, or perhaps viking origin that has become a self-governing country and may or may not secede from Danish sovereignty, with a modern population numbering in the tens of thousands. 

Their third album – Men Gu​ð​s hond er sterk – does retain the core tenets of their prior two records – all songs are performed in Faroese, and feature front and center the vocal pipes of revelatory vocalist Jón Aldará, whom I consider to be one of the most talented vocalists performing right now. Where this album differs from their previous records however, is in its atmosphere, its pacing. It’s noticeably less dirgey than its predecessors, with shorter tracks and a greater focus on clean vocals – on the surface, a change that might put off some, but executed well enough that it still feels very much like a Hamferð record.

The dynamic push and pull, the tension of it all, is the star of the show here – tracks like Fendreygar and Marrusorg build and build to an incredibly emotional climax, with Aldará’s vocals coming in wistfully over particularly chunky riffs and beautifully layered keyboard from Esmar Joensen. Aldará himself provides another set of stellar performances in his native language here (English vocals, on his part, are to be found in other bands such as Iotunn and Barren Earth). 

Vocal versatility is thrown into the picture immediately with opening number Ábær, coupling harshes and more operatic cleans beautifully. Glæman lands on the other side of this equation, with a vulnerable and effective clean performance on offer – an album highlight for me, with its subtle approach building to a wonderful almost Floydian atmosphere. Hvølja has an intense vocal performance that grabs you and throws you around for miles over incredibly oppressive riffs. There’s plenty here to appreciate. 

Of course, the vocals are but a part of what makes this work so effectively – guitarists Theodor Kapnas and newcomer Eyðun í Geil Hvannastein really bring some of their best riffs to the table, with the aforementioned Hvølja being an absolute masterclass in dirgery, and its coda, title track Men Gu​ð​s hond er sterk takes a wonderful opposite approach with a simple, clean melody. The lead work on Rikin and Glæman is beautifully executed. The convulsive climax of Í hamferð also lands rather well, complete with erratic drumming from Remi Johannesen. 

Men Gu​ð​s hond er sterk is a wonderful journey, taking you through peaks and valleys of beauty and brutality in a brisk 43 minutes. The record doesn’t try to do anything wholly unheard of within metal, but at the same time, it’s refreshing in its approach. Hamferð’s overall sound is akin to a prestige drama – it understands and executes in the areas of strong writing, strong pacing, and strong performance. This is a band that feels like they know exactly what they want to be, and have completely doubled down on their strengths with deeply impressive results.

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