Something clearly went horribly awry for wonderfully gifted Icelandic outfit Hjaltalín between albums two and three.
2009’s ‘Terminal’ is one of that year’s neglected classics, a life-affirming affair that still sounds like the best West End musical you’ve ever heard, even for those of us who’d rather have our ears removed than sit through Les Miserables.
Regrouping for the follow-up proved problematic, however, as the band’s charismatic frontman Högni Egilsson endured debilitating mental health issues, resulting in numerous hospitalisations.
The curious thing about music, of course, is that such conditions often then foster uniquely affecting music, and so it proves with ‘Enter 4’. Gone is the quirky euphoria, in comes a more downbeat and heartfelt mood across a diverse array of musical canvasses, from quasi-dubstep to dark funk, and starker, sparser moments.
It begins with Egilsson relating to a fallen angel in ‘Lucifer (He Felt Like A Woman),’ aided by a thrillingly throbbing organ groove. By the closing track, ‘Ethereal’ – eportedly recorded amid unbearable studio tensions – he is howling over a lone piano: a quite extraordinary performance.
Ably abetted by his operatic co-singer Sigríður Thorlacius, and some tremendous arrangements, this troubled soul has channelled his demons into a minor masterpiece.
Words: Si Hawkins
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