My fellow reviewer here at Whisperin' & Hollerin' called an earlier release from this Icelandic band "insanely cluttered". The same criticism applies to this eponymous release. The group labored over the record for seven years which gave them ample time to add even more unnecessary layers.
Thor-lookalike (minus the muscles) band leader Hö:gni Egilsson seems immune to the notion that sometimes less means more. He'll routinely opt for a full orchestral arrangement for the simplest of songs which efficiently drowns out any primal or earthly intentions.
The pity is that you can hear that the basic songs are fundamentally sound; fragile objects that should be treated more delicately. Instead, a simple piano ballad like Night Theme morphs into some over-produced monster. Similarly, the tormented self doubt that looms over of the opening track Chestmark would be far more effective if stripped of all the pompous trimmings.
The preferred melodramatics of many tracks are often strongly reminiscent of Frankie Goes To Hollywood's 'The Power of Love'. What charms at first soon gets tiresome.
The faux funk of Love From '99 is a little more successful in that it points to a direction that is less overblown albeit more orientated towards mainstream pop.
Egilsson's soulful vocals are prominent throughout but the best tracks are those in which female singer Sigńður Thorlacius is given the chance to grab centre stage. Her Goldfrappy voice makes the dreamy synth-soul of Baronesse an obvious standout tune and also enhances Needles And Pins.
All songs are in sung in English with no obvious trace of a foreign accent. There would be space for a couple of tracks in their native tongue but the band pass up this option. On a song such as Waterfall the lyrics are emotionally empowered gibberish anyway so they'd be little lost if they threw in a bit of Icelandic to remind listeners of their roots.
The album closes with Mad Lady Of Lizard Skin, sung by Sigńður Thorlacius which wouldn't be out of place in an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical.
This is all part and parcel of a mixed bag that has plenty of positives yet would benefit greatly from some creative de-cluttering.