Kveikur is Sigur Ros’ devastatingly beautiful and surprisingly loud seventh studio release and the band’s best effort since 2002’s (). The Icelandic band is now a threesome after the departure of multi-instrumentalist Kjartan Sveinsson. The departure of Sveinsson may have hinted at a more minimalist approach on the new record, but that’s just not the case with Kveikur. The album is strikingly complex and layered with piano, strings, various electronic effects, and guitar … very loud guitar. Sigur Ros have always been known for being restrained and ethereal. Opening track “Brennisteinn” changes that pattern rather quickly. Frontman Jónsi’s bowed guitar and falsetto swoons behind abrasive electronics and monstrous percussion. Upon first listen, I was immediately floored by the band’s aggressive sound.
The rest of the album somehow keeps pace with its superb opener. The orchestral horns in “Hrafntinna” are revelatory, Jonsi’s vocal register on “Ísjaki” induces goosebumps, while title track “Kveikur” continues the aggression with an almost ambient black metal sound. Sigur Ros have never released a poor album, but Kveikur breaks any streak of mediocrity the band may have been experiencing over the last decade.