Conflicted Buckets of Icarus: the cream of the Icelandic hardcore crop
Since moving to New York, Icarus‘ hectic live shows have been sorely missed in Reykjavík – so when the time came that they longed for the cold Icelandic winter (or their families during Christmas or whatever), a show had to be planned.
Joining them for this were Conflictions and Mercy Buckets, making this the best of the best within the hardcore scene although it would have been truly complete with the addition of Muck. The show took place in a bar called Dillon in downtown Reykjavík, basically a rock/metal bar within an old wooden house that was ready to collapse under the collective weight of an entire scene and the heavy music that comes with it. In short: the place was packed beyond belief. A bartender told me they hadn‘t been this busy outside of the Airwaves festival so that‘s saying a lot regarding the draw these bands have within the scene.
Starting off the show are Conflictions, who just last year got third place at Músíktilraunir, the Icelandic Battle of the Bands. I‘ll admit that although I‘d seen them a couple of times before that show, I‘d never been that impressed by them for whatever reason. That all changed as soon as they hit the “stage” (there wasn’t one) and started playing their brand of aggressive but melodic hardcore.
I’m not sure if they’ve actually changed much since I last saw them, or if it just finally clicked, but for whatever reason it’s impossible to look away. The riffs are catchy, the vocals are nicely balanced between screams and short spoken sections (think more Heavy Heavy Low Low than Being as an Ocean) and the breakdowns are vicious. You might think of them as a more aggressive Touché Amoré, so if that sounds like it would keep your sea vessel from sinking you should definitely check out their album when it comes out.
According to frontman Brynjar it should be out sometime before the summer.
Next up are redneck-core rebels Mercy Buckets, complete with glorious beards and a deep, dark love for coffee. Sounding like Every Time I Die if they’d have grown up listening to I Adapt along with their southern rock, they have multiple sing-a-long moments in their setlist.
Said setlist is mostly comprised of songs from their debut album Lumberjack Fantasies, including such great songs as “Hey look at me mom, I just made a swimming pool in the back of my pickup truck” and “Darn Hot Coffee“, but they also play one new song, so hopefully new material is on the horizon.
Before playing the aforementioned coffee song, vocalist Ásgeir reads a poem written by Hjalti, one of the band’s guitarists, about our servitude to the “black queen, coffee” which was a nice addition to their already entertaining set. Although there may not be any one-of-a-kind physical copies left of their album, it’s available on Bandcamp for a price of your choosing, so there’s no reason not to check it out – unless you hate fun, and honestly, who hates fun?
Last but certainly not least we have Icarus and their very own style of aggressive but melodic and emotional hardcore. Known for their energetic and intense live shows, their absence has left a bit of a hole in the scene so I’m pretty sure everyone is happy to allow them to fill that hole. I know for a fact a few people showed up specifically to have holes filled by a certain someone in the band whose phrase “a few girls came here with the sole purpose of hooking up with me but I was just sitting in the corner, crying and beating my face with the mic” will certainly go down as one of the finest quotes in Iceland’s hardcore history.
Icarus’ set is one of great polarity; on one side you have them dancing along to some upbeat song on the PA while setting up and on the other you have vocalist Finnbogi hanging upside down from the ceiling beams while bleeding profusely from his forehead.
Playing through a selection of songs from their 2014 album Ascending//Descending, you can hardly hear Finnbogi’s vocals over the screams from the crowd, and a few times the moshing disrupts the guitar or bass so you’re left with nothing but screaming and drums.
Speaking of the drums, drummer Benni has got to be one of the best drummers to be found in the scene these days, switching effortlessly between grooves, punky d-beats and blasting within the short but sweet set. Guitarist Gunni and bassist Fannar have brought their A-game as well but, as mentioned earlier, they’re in the moshing danger zone so a few times someone bumps into them a bit harder than usual and bringst their playing to a halt.
I guess at a show of this intensity that’s to be expected and it definitely doesn’t take away from the stellar performance. Things get pretty emotional at one point and it’s a testament to the beauty of this scene how this was handled with hugs and hangouts rather than mockery and misplaced masculinity. An amazing start to a new year that promises to be filled with even more hardcore greatness than the one before it.
Icarus’ album, like Lumberjack Fantasies before it, is available for a price of your choosing on Bandcamp and I know for a fact that a new full length album will be out this year so keep your eyes on these guys if you want more.
Live videos of that night, photos of these band and more from the Icelandic hardcore scene can be found on the photography page of Yevgeny Dyer.