Iceland's Vansköpun ('Deformation') have chosen a name all too apt for their brutal, oppressive brand of black metal. Essentially the antithesis of subtlety and intricacy, this three-track cassette demo is almost morbidly direct as it crushes the listener with cycles of repetitious dissonance, while the enormous black rasps elevate to intense and harrowing extremes, a corpulent membrane of blood and pestilence that allows not a moment of peace for anyone. At the same time, though, the 19 minutes of this recording do tend to come off rather monotonous and recycled, with little to no nuance and painfully simplistic song structures.
Not to imply that the Icelanders are incapable of variation, but their ability to transition from the slower, drudging morass of their opening riffs into an open rush of blasting seems somewhat forced and jarring. In "Genesis 6:17", they don't try this at all, but jam out on the same, minimal riff for nearly 3 minutes, initiating a few of the band's lyrical lines in their native tongue. The other pieces, "Botnlaust Tómið Hungrar" and "Alsæla Gegnum Endurfæðingu" are substantially larger, each over 8 minutes and with vaster dynamic range. The mixed tempos go off without a hitch, granted, but the foundations from which they are wrought don't seem especially apt at building or shattering anticipation, and there's very little excitement when a blast arrives in the midst of some dense, lurching miasma.
What I admired most about Vansköpun was the sound itself. Bold, pumping bass anchors the distraught progressions of the guitars, and the vocals are such a massive swell of vitriol that it feels like the sky has been torn off and some universe-sized leviathan is about to defecate down all our necks. It's incredibly difficult not to be convinced of the darkness in this group's being, because they continue to hit you in the face with it all as if they were some feral boxer stuck in a temporal loop. That said, a recording of under 20 minutes is not generally the greatest means to fully gauge the breadth of a black metal band, and with one of three tracks being disposable, I didn't derive much out of this other than a beating. With a bit more variety in the writing and perhaps a broader meter to the vocals, this could easily become one of Iceland's darker exports.
Verdict: Indifference [6.5/10]