The Icelandic Rock Artist Daníel Hjálmtýsson releases a moody Neo-Gothic adventure with his 4-track EP titled, 'EP.' Accompanied by Belgian veterans Aldo Struyf and Lyenn on the project; they deliver heightened themes of expressionism while floating with sultry and melancholy tones. When being described as the Icelandic offspring of Leonard Cohen, Nick Dave, and Mark Lanegan, one can understand the musical stylings of Daníel Hjálmtýsson better. After receiving vast recognition through his EP's previously released singles, the likes of Daníel Hjálmtýsson have been on heavy repetition throughout local Icelandic radio stations while also reaching Seattle. We're excited to introduce his latest project, as we get a taste of the past and the present within the EP's four tracks.
Piercing the EP with the introductory track, "Volatile," the song begins with a cinematic approach, similar to the opening of a major motion film. While formulating it to be incredibly modern in sound, we hear hard-hitting electronic kicks, woozy electric guitar, a droning synth in the background while a powerful string section gradually makes its appearance. Once Daníel Hjálmtýsson begins singing with his smooth and low vocals, we hear a reflective lyrical message of facing your demons head-on and embracing them for what they are. This down-tempo and the haunting tune ends off with organic instrumentation and floating background synths, offering an abundance of sonic satisfaction.
Moving into the second piece, "Fear Flows," Daníel Hjálmtýsson sends plenty of chills to the listener through the melancholy ambiance that melts through our speakers. With a brilliantly emotional intro through whaling lead guitar, plucky layered guitar, and intricate percussion patterns, Daníel Hjálmtýsson enters the song and sings of the relatable turmoil we all experience. Another reflective down-tempo tune, we feel heightened Neo-Gothic, and Grunge elements pour through the song's heavy instrumentals. While Daníel Hjálmtýsson continues to sing of the flowing fear that humans can't escape, he finishes the track with a powerful sense of reflection and overcoming the demons we fight.
With the next track, "Withered," we hear an incredibly sultry and dark atmosphere set upon this song like a mid-fall fog. We hear Daníel Hjálmtýsson open the song with his low, warm, and clear vocals offering a sensual delivery while singing quite poetic lyricism towards the bitter-tasting fruits inflicted by the bitter-sweet times of searching for inner peace. While accompanied by downtempo kicks and cymbals, a haunting electric guitar delivers a dreamy sweet-escape alongside the darkly-lit atmosphere. We truly love the ambiance and melancholy elements that Daníel Hjálmtýsson has infused into this spacious and chilling piece.
Ending the EP off with the outro track, "Birds (Alt. Version)," the song begins with saddened acoustic guitar picking and Daníel Hjálmtýsson's Leonard Cohen-like vocals, singing a down-tempo, poetic, and reflective tale. While singing of his dreams and reaching them with all his might, Daníel Hjálmtýsson sinks deeper into introspection and questions life's many daunting mysteries. The instrumentals gradually expand to be highly orchestral with help from a chilling cello, soft woodwind flairs, and the jazzy undertones through the mellow bassline and downtempo drums. While ending off on more of a dark note, we honestly feel refreshed after listening to such an in-depth project like this.
Through each reflective, poetic, and profound lyrical concept within Daníel Hjálmtýsson's EP, 'EP,' we feel compelled to listen to the project time and time again, as we highly enjoyed the deep and wise introspection that Daníel Hjálmtýsson and his surrounding creators touched on within this haunting sweet-escape.
We genuinely love the reflective and haunting adventure you've taken us on with your latest 4-track project, 'EP.' What inspired the creation of the songs within the project?
That´s a pretty good description of what the EP is to me in many ways, a haunting reflective venture into myself, my experiences, relationships, environment, and my life, but only holding a fraction of the mirror. Thank you for reading into it like that and thanks for the love. The four songs are a small collection of music and poetry I´ve written over a fairly long period of time. Inspired by love, loss of love, depression, anxiety, confusion, hurt, inner conflicts, and struggles that have plagued too many of us, with hope and light not out of reach. A kind of twilight of the spirit, a conflict of light and darkness. The songs vary a lot in soundscapes and themes, different islands in the same sea, and serve as a taste of what´s to come. We´re just getting started.
Is there a particular lyrical concept that flows through the entirety of your project, 'EP?' What sort of stories did you want to share with listeners?
I write a lot about a personal experience, be it good or bad and my lyrics could be described as a diary or a therapeutical exercise of sorts, where I also indulge in dreams, nightmares, and other dimensions and the imaginary to tell those stories and express myself. It´s a spiritual, holistic, and hauntingly reflective process. Growing and learning from the past, present, and beyond.
Could you take us through your EP's creative process while collaborating with Aldo Struyf and Lyenn? How did they help bring your vision to life?
Aldo and Lyenn brought a lot to the songs (“Fear Flows”, “Volatile”) and inspired me to look into certain sonic aspects I had sort of cornered off in the back of my mind but couldn´t squeeze out – they made that happen. I asked them to add whatever came to mind and top off the songs and I couldn´t have asked for more. It´s the same with the Red Limo Quartet
and Magnús Jóhann, that guest on “Birds (Alt. version)” and the single version of that song. I didn´t ask anything of them but to play what they heard and voila. There is a reason I look to these people for contribution, it´s not just the love, respect, and friendships, I´m a
huge fan of all of them too. They get me. I wrote the songs in a variety of ways and had them lined up before taking them to my band. Consisting of Hálfdán Árnason (bass), Pétur
Hallgrímsson (guitars) and Skúli Gíslason (drums). We jammed on the songs and arrange them. Most of them became huge sonic journeys that we simply could not fit onto an EP, so we especially look forward to playing the songs in a live setting, with Garðar Borgþórsson now replacing Pétur on guitar respectively. It was a beautiful process in the living room of my drummer´s house Skúli in his hometown of Selfoss, a quiet town outside of the city. Everything just clicked. Shortly thereafter we met up with our friend and producer, Jóhannes Birgir Pálmason to record the EP in a warm, laid back studio with no name in Reykjavik last summer. To then have a legend such as Alain Johannes top it all off with mastering the EP was just a gift on its own and an immense pleasure.
Why did you want to create four tracks that offer this profound melancholy tone within 'EP?' Do the sonics within this project represent you in any way?
I feel these four songs serve as an intro to my/our sonic worlds and a good starting point for what´s to come. We´re only just getting started, as I said. The profound melancholy, as you say, can also be interpreted as a coping mechanism through artistic expressionism. The songs are very dark in tone as I use music to battle demons and shake monkeys off my back, deal with and accept the spectrum of being, yet staying faithful, true, honest, and mindful of who I want to be and who I am. I tend to dwell on the past a bit too much at times and overthink certain things and to write about them helps me move forward and put
those things to bed, or at least try to. It gives meaning to the unwanted. Instead of letting the darkness take over you and torch you, you embrace the beasts and tame them, use them and bend them to your will. When the monkeys claw at your back, you play with them instead of being victimized. You stare into the mirror and accept the one staring back in all forms. You create from despair, anxiety, pain, your feelings and emotions you´ve experienced and kept trying to conquer each day. Being mindful and aware that you are in control. Create not collapse. Getting sober was also a huge factor in the way I approached my musical work. It set a lot of things free. I got sober on my own a few years ago and quit cold turkey and learned a lot about who I was, who I´ve been, who I don´t want to be, and who I want to strive to become. I never did AA, never attended meetings, I needed another way and I needed to figure things out on my own. Something happened and I got in touch with myself, my life, and my way of being in a way I never thought possible. Turning your
own mind and body into your monastery. Music means more to me than I could ever describe and I am so thankful to have the chance to hear it, play it, and experience it in every way.
We've heard that you're already gearing up for releases in 2021. Should we anticipate a similar sound to your project 'EP' within the upcoming releases?
Yeah, we have a lot of cool things lined up for next year. We are recording new material for an LP release and some visual footage as well. The LP has already been written, so we just need to jam and arrange together as a band. We are locking down together for rehearsals
and recording some demos in late December with hopes of being in the studio by March. The music I´m making is a complex animal with a lot of different shapes and sides to it but I think you can expect a similar approach. Dark, melancholic themes in a rock, experimental, electronic, ballad, folky, proggy environment where expressionism and experimentation are key. Visuals will also play a vital role in all of this and we look forward to sharing those with our audience. We just need to roll with the on-going crisis and see what happens but
we plan on hitting the road when we can be sure of each other´s safety and everyone else´s. We look to the future, further creativity, and travels with positivity, determination, and excitement. We can not wait to see you and play some music. Stay safe and be true to yourself and others around you.