Doom has always dealt with terms of love & loss, depression, and the struggle to endure. The devastating album Támsins likam by Faroese Sextet Hamferð is no different in that regard. However, what is different is their desolate and haunting brand of funeral doom that which also references death and black metal but is wholeheartedly genuine in its beautiful bereaved clarity.
The thing that struck me the most throughout my Initial listen was the agency to the band’s arrangements. While we are talking about funeral doom here, and many bands have exploited the dirge tempo aesthetics to death, Hamferð’s music doesn’t always move at funeral procession pace. The songs breathe and contract at a rate majority of band’ s in the same genre don’t seem to. The dynamic shifts from soft to heavy are drastic but rife with impact, each time. The arrangements of the songs, and even the order of the tracks, highlight this fact. There are clever whole band accents (mainly drums and guitars) that pull the listeners ear in a direction only to be offset by a unique vocal harmony or string section that I always was surprised and excited by. While many bands in the doom idiom (especially stoner) use repetition sometimes to their own detriment, Hamferð show that well fleshed our chord progressions with vocal dynamics and additional instrumentation (piano, strings, etc) add a depth to the overall emotional experience crafting a truly memorable listening experience.
Of note is the vocals. Vocalist Jón Aldará (also of Barren Earth fame) delivers an impeccable performance ranging from death rasps that could easily give Mikael Akerfeldt in his glory days a run for his money, Agonizing screams channeling the ghastly being in which this album references, to soaring and majestic clean vocals which are some of the best in the business. While the music of Hamferð is certainly strong enough on its own merits, Aldará elevates the performance to stunning and unforgettable levels.
The opening somber moments of “Fylgisflog” with its ethereal and solemn guitar introduction really sets the scene for this record. The slow burn adds the introduction of Aldará’s vocals giving way to the crushing heaviness of the rest of the song starting at the four-minute mark. I was left stunned at this transition as gooseflesh plagued my body. This example of dynamic building is exemplary of Hamferð’s whole songwriting approach. The latter half of “Hon Syndrast” takes things even further with a black-ish metal part complete with a slow traditional blast beat used at EXACTLY the right moment. However there is some slight respite on the record with the song “Frosthvarv” which takes things in a slower more delicate approach. With the punishing repetition of the final riffs of “Vapín í Anda”, they are making sure you don’t leave this place unscathed. After the re-Introduction of the opening them the emotional havoc inflicted by the end of the song will leave you in shambles…I mean this as the highest compliment and with respect to the atmosphere in which this work was most certainly intended. The hurt never ends.
The production on Támsins likam is superb. Modern tech death this is not. There are no overly produced sample laden drums and the mix is not compressed to all hell. The mix is full and feels gargantuan the space it fills. All the levels for the crushing Guitars, punchy bass, minimalist keys, booming drums, and vocals are perfectly balanced and complimentary to one another. It literally sounds like you are sitting down right in front of the band while listening to this record…or should I say being lowered down into your grave?
While comparisons to “Dreadful Hours” by My Dying Bride, “Brave Murder Day” era Katatonia, and Shape of Despair are certainly apt, it should only serve as reference point for the uninitiated and do nothing to diminish this work which certainly stands out in the rest of the doom pack. Devoid of any trend or adherence to the current metal scenes Támsins likam forges its own path, one of utterly majestic and transcendent doom metal for the modern age.