Music Reviews

Kaelan Mikla | album review

Megan Moonbat

written by : Megan Moonbat

photography : image: Førtifem



Kaelan Mikla | Undir Koldum Nordurljosum (Under Northern Lights) | Artoffact Records

Icelandic trio of witches Kaelan Mikla have arrived with their fourth album Undir Koldum Nordurljosum  (Under Northern Lights) via Artoffact Records. Coming together after winning first place in a poetry slam held by the city of Reykjavík back in 2013, the band’s early years were characterized by raw bass, drum and screamed vocals. Over the last several years their sound has progressed by leaps and bounds, streamlining their sound and introducing synths to the mix, all songs sung in Icelandic. The results are found in 2018’s excellent Nótt eftir nótt , showcasing melodic sophistication, tighter rhythms and richer textures. The band was handpicked by Robert Smith to be one of the opening acts for the Cure’s 40th anniversary, and became renowned for their powerful live performances. They have now achieved sophistication and mastery of their craft with their newest offering of cinematic, goth-influenced post punk/darkwave.

We are directly swept up in the enticing darkness that envelops opening track ‘Svört Augu (Black Eyes)’ as droning percussion lays the base while ghostly background vocals whisper and hiss over synths. It is clear that Kaelan Mikla has emerged as a fully-formed, tight band who has mastered the art of delayed gratification as crisp, satisfying synths cast an icy sheen. Sólstöður (Solar Positions)’ is straight up sludge metal-meets-drone as a backdrop for pounding lyrics and layered screams. Their usage of screams can be traced to their earliest works, this time around, they are finding ways to manipulate it as a layered element that merges with background choir vocals melting into a dark waltzing synth. The mood is instantly established as we join them trudging through the snow on a dark Winter Solstice.

Undir Koldum Nordurljosum proves itself to be the most danceable Kaelan Mikla album to date. ‘Örlögin (Fate)’ is straight up 80s new wave inspired dark dance music at its finest, while ‘Halastjarnan’ features ghostly vocals atop darkwave melody as they gaze from the depths to the stars, entranced by swirling galaxies, begging comparison to the likes of early Dead Can Dance and Cocteau Twins. Other stalwart, danceable tracks such as ‘Ósýnileg’ and ‘Stormurinn’ are set to propulsive beats which showcase the restraint and thought put into the superb production value of the record. All the while, they maintain their specifically Kaelan Mikla dark, enticing mood that keeps the listener enraptured in their world of magic, folklore and myth.

Longest track, ‘Sirenur’, clocking in at 7:06 minutes, tells the epic tale of sirens being called back to their watery home. This ethereal track evokes images of ice-cold waves crashing against a craggy shoreline. Themes of winter beaches and icy oceans appear again and again throughout the entirety of the album. ‘Stormurinn’ follows up right after as the witches run hand-in-hand towards the crashing waves’ cold embrace, woodwinds play atop a slow roll into a propulsive synth and bass driven beat. Atmospheric and absorbing, it concludes with the crashing of the waves as they are welcomed back to their watery origins.

‘Hvtir Sandar (White Sand)’ features French post-black metal band Alcest set to a plodding, heavy beat against a wall of sound as they navigate themes of never being quite enough, no matter how hard you try, not to mention the fear of exposing too much – all the dark parts and hidden ghosts that exist within. This angular, propulsive track features screams by Neige (Alcest) that seep deep into the wall of sound as the song fades out.

‘Saman (Together)’ brings the album to a close, featuring stripped back guitar, paired back percussion and intimate, hushed vocals sung in harmony over a restrained arpeggio providing a piquant closing song to a masterful achievement of an album. In Undir Koldum Norduljosm, Kaelan Mikla further prove their artistry as well as innovative efforts to consistently intrigue and hold the listener spellbound. These darkwave sirens are here to usher us into their nocturnal universe, proving that the dark is just as important as the light.

If you listen and like what you hear, consider supporting independent musicians and buy their music.

Kaelan Mikla | Bandcamp

Note* I have tried as much as possible to accurately translate the titles of the songs, however, as I don’t speak Icelandic, some translations might be subject to fault. For this review, I relied on translations provided by LyricFind and LyricSource to get a gist as to the subject matter of each piece.