Iceland's two-piece electronic band Legend doesn't conform to the usual conventions of what you'd call industrial, electro-rock or darkwave, although those labels have been applied to them now and then, as well as favorable comparisons to Joy Division, Bauhaus and Depeche Mode. But honestly, while this duo knows the rules of those genres, they choose to shatter them and assemble a new entity from the jagged pieces. I knew very little about the team of frontman Krummi Björgvinsson (formerly of punk group Minus, and a prominent presence in Icelandic music) and instrumentalist Halldor Björnsson until I was introduced to a haunting short film by Kitty Von-Sometime, part of an amazing series entitled the “Weird Girls Project.” Sister is the twelfth episode in that collection, and features the Legend track of the same name (be sure to check it out at the end of this article). The music was so entrancing, in perfect symphony with the ghostly, half-awake nightmare visuals, that I wanted to hear more, so I picked up their debut album and was instantly hooked.
Not only are most of the songs on Fearless dripping with angst, dread and lust, they're also musically tight and melodically powerful, to the point that I could hardly believe I was listening to a band that formed less than two years ago. Earth-shaking, beefy beats support coarse guitars that are just refined enough to fuse to the shifting electro patterns, while Krummi's moody vocals transform the grim, sinister melodies into infectious dark-pop hooks, and the entire sonic package is wrapped in a veil of synth pads that make the album feel genuinely haunted.
You'll slip into its grip immediately in the deep drones and unearthly wordless chants that open "Amazon War,” which become even more disturbing as dramatic synth layers are added, finally exploding into a cyber-tribal beat... and that's just to get you in the mood for what's still to come. Instrumental setups like this are common across the album, whether to get your pulse racing with a bumping bass-beat foundation before the guitars kick in on the quirky “Benjamite Bloodline” or to soak the sound space with ambient colors on tracks like the colossal "Runaway Train" before burning low chords and cinematic piano strains set the basic melody, as Krummi's memerizing voice finally takes center stage. The lyrics are usually simple and cyclical, sometimes taking on mantra-like patterns, which gives a lot of room for production artistry, layering and treating the vocals like instruments. "Sister" is one of the best examples of this approach, making it a wise choice for a single and video, as you will soon find out.
Lighter touches are rare but well-employed on "Sudden Stop” and “Traveling Blind,” which are the closest to lightweight pop to be found here, but for me they seem a touch too gentle for the album's overall tone. Moodier, more pensive tracks like "Violence" manage to maintain a warm core of humanity within dense, oppressive layers of bass and thudding rhythms, which sometimes break open to reveal brighter, more optimistic variations – the title track is a good example, and benefits from a Peter Gabriel-like quality to the chorus vocals – or a sensual undercurrent in the case of "Devil In Me,” with its horny, bump-and-grind urgency, blended with an '80s vibe in the bonus remix. "Lust" follows with more blatantly sexual lyrics, but ironically with a more melancholy romantic sensibility... not so with the bonus track “Virgin,” which is a virtual firestorm of sexual energy with an incredible ground-pounding beat, and my personal favorite from the band. If you buy this album, make sure you include get this track in the pack; it's a keeper.
Fearless is a standout release in gothic/electro music in 2012, and that's actually saying a lot, because a lot of unique and inventive artists have stepped into the game this year. I'm personally glad I came across this band when I did, because I have a feeling we'll be hearing a lot about them soon – on both sides of the Atlantic – and I want to stay on top of this particular wave. Here's another taste in the form of Kitty Von-Sometime's video for “Sister,” which starts out spooky enough as it is, but watch for Krummi's chilling arrival shortly after the three-minute mark...