It’s entirely possible that you haven’t heard of Hamferð yet. It’s also extremely likely that you’re about to. Hailing from the Faroe Islands, Hamferð were the 2012 winners of the renowned Wacken Open Air Metal Battle, where they saw off strong competition from nearly thirty countries’ worth of talent to take home the crown. And since a major part of their prize package was a one-year record deal with Nuclear Blast, you can bet your boots they’re about to hit everyone’s radar in a big way.


So what’s all the fuss about? Well, I was at their Wacken show, and my copy of their debut EP Vilst er Síðsta Fet is one of the ones that the band were handing out for free at the end of their set. So I can certainly vouch for the fact that live, they earned that victory – and listening to the album when I got home, they’re possibly even better on record. Hamferð play majestic and melancholic funeral doom with a lonely, windswept atmosphere, at once resonatingly heavy and hauntingly beautiful; their songs run between eight and nine minutes each as a rule, so although there are only four tracks here, there’s still more than enough material to showcase their skills. Perhaps ironically, though, my favourite track is actually opener “Harra Guð, títt dýra navn og æra”; which isn’t of their own writing but a traditional Faroese psalm, here performed in a gorgeous clean register and with its melody carried by the guitars in a fashion that somehow sounds entirely too pagan to belong behind anything borrowed from the Christian church. The result makes a perfect lead-in to the three main tracks, which offer a mix of harsh and clean vocals set over yearning melodies and almost soothingly hypnotic slow beats. All the lyrics are in Faroese; a very apt decision by the band, as while it’s a beautiful language to hear sung, only a handful of listeners will know what is being said, adding to the sense of isolation and remote distance created by the music.


The only thing that I think might be a drawback for Hamferð, poised as they now are to break into the big time, is their visual presentation. The band take the stage dressed in a semi-matching array of slightly disheveled suits, creating an impression that really doesn’t seem to relate at all to their music. During their Wacken set I found I had to shut my eyes in order to really appreciate their sound, as otherwise the incongruity kept distracting me. However, others have disagreed with me on this point, so I’m willing to wait and see.


Besides which, of course, image isn’t everything. Frankly any band who make music as good as this could probably turn up wearing Hawaiian shorts and fur hats and I’d still gladly give them a pass. [9/10 – KIT RATHENAR]