Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased tracks, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Each and every Friday we offer songs by local artists. Today’s selection, featured on the Midday Show with Cheryl Waters, is “Hellbound Heart” by Reykjavik! from the 2011 album Locust Sounds on Kimi Records.
Boston did it. Chicago did it. But those are names of bands you might not consider pioneers or role models if you’re a hard rocking band from Iceland. Still, the guys of Reykjavík! chose to name their group after their current home base, and the most populous city on the island nation, not to mention the location synonymous to outsiders with the seemingly endless supply of amazing music. In all, it’s a fairly bold move, one which Reykjavík! embraces (and punctuates) emphatically. Yet, the exclamation in their name is a gross understatement considering their high-energy, high-decibel, high-screaming live shows. Part raging punk, part bludgeoning metal and part searing post-hardcore, Reykjavík!’s music is a cathartic release, like the billowing plume of Eyjafjallajökull.
On their third, 2011 release, Reykjavík! the band — featuring singer Bóas Hallgrímsson, guitarist and singer Haukur Magnússon, guitarist Valdi Jóhannsson, guitarist Gummi Halldórsson (yes, there are a lot of guitarists in this band!), bassist Geiri Sigurðsson, and drummer Kristján Halldórsson — finds the softer side of screamcore. Okay, songs like “Internet” and “Fire Fire Fire Ocean Ocean” are still blistering throat-busters, but Locust Sounds tends toward more melodic rockers like “Sneak,” “Cats,” and “Mountains.” Today’s featured song, “Hellbound Heart,” is one of their most accessible and infectious. It’s so anthemic it’s almost uplifting… that is, if you don’t actually listen to the lyrics. Inspired by the Clive Barker novella of the same name, which itself inspired the infernal cult classic Hellraiser, “Hellbound Heart” is told through the eyes of Frank, the depraved hedonist who seeks to escape the hell he called up for himself and the demons who hold him there, like the fan-named “Pinhead.” But there’s a power in the music itself, and regardless of lines like “after pain has purified my soul” and “in this hell is where I will roam,” you’ll still want to chant “feels like I’m coming ho-oh-ome!” at the top of your lungs… even if it is back to hell.
You might wish yourselves there if you try running around town trying to find Locust Sounds in a local record shop, but you can get the MP3s through links on the band’s website or through Iceland’s own Gogoyoko. If you want the hard copy, you’ll need to get it from Kimi Records’ website. And unfortunately, you’ll probably need to make a trip to Reykjavík to actually see Reykjavík! For now, though, you can content yourself with this video, originally conceived of as a “placeholder” video for the band to release their song to YouTube viewers but which turned out so nice it was nominated for a local video award. Depicted here is the notoriously treacherous flight (a 230 degree turn to the runway) to the northwest town of Ísafjörður, where most of the band members actually hail from, and thankfully not the actual malevolent subject of the lyrics: