DYNFARI: Contrasting Opposites

Dynfari

Icelandic metal quartet Dynfari celebrate its tenth anniversary this year with the release of new, fifth studio album titled ‘Myrkurs er þörf,’ out on April 17th via Aural Music. The group from Reykjavik will play two sets at this year’s Roadburn Festival in Tilburg, The Netherlands, and about this all and more, Prog Sphere talked with singer and multi-instrumentalist Jóhann Örn.

Describe the musical frameworks your upcoming album Myrkurs er þörf  explores.

We combine the dynamics, melodies and emotional expression commonly found in post-rock with the intensity and drive of black metal. Describing Myrkurs er þörf as a black metal album does not seem correct in my mind, even if some may classify it with prefixes such as “atmospheric” or “post”. Having said that, I believe it is still a darker and harsher album than its predecessor, The Four Doors of the Mind.

Tell me about the ideas that inform the album.

The album is an ode to battling the abyss of depression and overcoming thoughts of self-destruction and suicide. To continue the abyss metaphor, some of the self-written lyrics originate from its lowest depths, and others from the climb up. There is philosophical inspiration to be found as well, such as in the penultimate track where phrases from both Carl Jung and William Plomer are uttered.

Dynfari - Myrkurs er þörf

How do the diverse, complex rhythmic and global musical influences serve the storylines of the record?

That’s a complex one. One local influence is the accordion that I inherited from my grandfather. I have experimented with it since Vegferð tímans, and it had quite a bit of spotlight on Four Doors, but I think it gets to shine more than ever on Myrkurs er þörf. Contrary to the major chord stereotype that people may think of when they imagine accordion play, its minor chords can be used to profound effect in melancholic expression. I believe it serves the compositions on the record well. In a more global sense, I must mention the evolution we felt as musicians during our American tour with the Romanian Negura Bunget a few years ago. Even if we have not taken direct influence from their music, the experience we gained during those two months was invaluable.

What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced and lessons learned during the creative process for Myrkurs er þörf?

We faced a real deadline with this album which was very challenging and unlike what we are used to. In the process, we had to let some things go. Another big challenge is a practical one, which is the fact that we now live in three different places around Iceland. It has been and continues to be a tremendous organizational challenge to arrange sessions to continue working on our music.

Is there an unifying thread that connects Myrkurs er þörf with previous records?

Unlike our previous albums, Myrkurs er þörf is not a concept album. Yet we retain some narrative styles, such as contrasting opposites in song titles, such as “days” and “nights” in the first two tracks, respectively. We have also continued experimenting with including an accordion in arrangements. One very real unifying thread is that the first sounds of Myrkurs er þörf are actually the very last sounds of The Four Doors of the Mind.

Have you managed to make any new discoveries as the time passed during the creative process? Do you think that at some point of that process your writing approach changed drastically?

We did have a different approach in the creative process of this album. It is the first album that we work on so collaboratively as a full band. For the first three albums it was just the two of us, so Four Doors was the first one that we wrote together as a full band. For Myrkurs er þörf we made a real effort to make the songs flow naturally in a live setting before adding more layers or developing the compositions one by one. It made for more live-friendly arrangements, as opposed to some tracks from our other albums that are next to impossible to replicate completely in a live setting, without hiring a flock of session members.

What types of change do you feel this music can initiate?

I feel it may be an entity people can relate with, especially those who have been or are currently fighting depression or existential dread in general. I won’t go so far to say that it’ll inspire people to “change”, but it is one expression of violently fighting back and refusing to succumb to the abyss. I think it is important for such journeys to be shared, as they may possibly be one cog in inspiring people’s own journeys upwards.

Do you tend to follow any pre-defined patterns when composing a piece?

We have typically only followed a verse-chorus tradition to a relatively low degree. However, our songs often tend to have a sort of “dual” structure, a first and second half if you will. And they typically end with the most epic part. Perhaps our albums are a little bit like that as well.

What evolution as a musician and a band do you see across your five studio albums?

First of all, an enormous amount. We were 19 years old when we recorded our first album, and 20 for the second which we recorded ourselves. We were novices, really exploring the process of writing and recording an album from scratch. I think with Vegferð tímans we really hit something, “found ourselves” so to speak, our own approach, sound and expression. Four Doors was more of an experiment, trying different progressive elements and narratives. I like to think of Myrkurs er þörf as more of a return to the DIY approach we had on e.g. Vegferð tímans, except situated 5 years later with more influences and experiences that contribute to the album as a whole.

Dynfari at Roadburn 2020

You are scheduled to play at this year’s edition of the Roadburn Festival in Tilburg, The Netherlands. What are your expectations from the event, and what can the visitors expect from your set?

We are very excited to play Roadburn Festival! We have the privilege to play two special sets: The Four Doors of the Mind in its entirety on Saturday, and a special Myrkurs er þörf show on Sunday. Visitors can expect a very different experience in the two sets, and something very special, perhaps especially on Saturday. We have spent the last few months preparing for it, as we have never played the entire Four Doors album before, with its acoustic pieces and accordion to boot. It will also be the first time we play Myrkurs er þörf from start to finish in one set (although skipping one track due to time constraints). We expect it to be a challenging task, but ultimately rewarding for both us and the spectators.

What non-musical entities and ideas have an impact on your music?

I could go on a pretentious rant here about Nietzsche and various other philosophers, but I would rather not. I did go through analyzing myself in considerable detail in interviews for Four Doors, so I feel done with that. It is established that we have grappled with existential questions from the beginning, so naturally our lyrical themes are influenced by philosophies of centuries past. Myrkurs er þörf continues grappling. One idea, of a near-linguistic sense, shouted in the album’s finale is the difficulty of making the distinction between want and need, how the mind can be blinded to what it really wants or needs, and the consequences of this conundrum, whose ponderings lead to the album’s conclusion.

What advice or philosophy might you impart to other musicians, be it in forms of creativity, technical stuff, the business side of it, or anything else?

Don’t aim too high, but don’t aim too low either. Be friendly to everyone you meet. Don’t stop creating – creation comes in waves, and don’t stop finding new outlets for your creativity.

Myrkurs er þörf is out on April 17th via Aural Music; pre-order it here. Follow Dynfari on Facebook.

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