Svartmálmur: A Saga of Icelandic Black Metal

In the last 10 years, even as the fortunes of the print industry has come under increased pressure, books about metal have flourished as eager readers have (hammer) smashed their faces into tomes of darkness and extremity. (Many of these fine books are available through Decibel, by the way.) This has progressed from books covering death metal and black metal more generally to exposés focused on individual scenes. This of course includes well-known and legendary scenes like Swedish death metal and Finnish black metal.

In that same vein, a new book from photographer Verði ljós and Wormlust’s Hafsteinn Viðar Ársælsson presents a snapshot of Iceland’s illustrious black metal hordes.

Iceland’s black metal scene has been insanely prolific in recent years, especially for a country of only 334,000 people. Bands like Carpe Noctem, Draugsól, Misþyrming, and Sinmara have reached wide acclaim in underground metal circles, bringing their own brand of dissonant northern darkness to the wider world. Rather than a straightforward chronicle or series of biographies, Svartmálmur is a collection of photos and song lyrics that let’s the bands and their art speak for themselves. The book has been published by Ditto London and is available through Dayal Patterson’s Cult Never Dies.

As the scene is relatively young, this approach makes sense. Indeed many of the images capture Iceland’s striking and extreme landscapes, embodying the spirit of the music itself. A real gem for enthusiasts of this up-and-coming group of bands.