When it comes to doom metal, death, misery, and woe have never been in short supply. But it’s one thing to make dark music—it’s another to be immersed in the darkness. Támsins Likam (“Body of the Mist”), the sophomore full-length from Faroese six-piece Hamferð, is defined by the presence of death, which casts ominous shadows over practically every note. But Hamferð present metal’s obligatory preoccupation with dying in a light we rarely see it, finding melodrama, romance, and—yes—beauty in mortality.
Támsins Likam is a story about a family shattered by the death of a child and visited by supernatural entities. It’s the final installment of a chronologically backwards narrative which began on 2010 debut album Vilst Er Síðsta Fet and continued with the 2013 EP Evst. But in a rather gutsy show of culturo-linguistic chutzpah, vocalist Jón Aldará sings entirely in the band’s native Faroese. Which means that, for listeners from just about any other region on earth—including much of Scandinavia—Hamferð’s music must communicate more via mood and ambience than it does with their actual lyrics. Nevertheless, it’s clear that the band is, um, deadly serious about the storyline.
Given that all six members wear funeral tuxes when the band plays live, Hamferð (written in English as Hamferd) are certainly not above schtick. But their ability to punctuate crushing riffs and tormented death metal growls with airy sections of organ and clean singing gives their music a hymnal quality that adds a ceremonial gravity to its despair, which at times reaches such intense levels of anguish that Hamferð comes off like a goth act in disguise. While the chugging guitars, barking vocals, and eventual switch to a melodic chorus on a song like “Hon Syndrast” wouldn’t sound out of place on a Mastodon record, lengthy passages of Támsins Likam appear to have more in common with the Baroque period than metal. For nearly four minutes of album opener “Fylgisflog,” for example, a barely audible cello drone, operating at a glacially-slow pace, underscores twinkling guitar and vocals. Later, on “Frosthvarv,” drummer Remi Johannesen and the rest of the band play with the delicate touch of a cocktail jazz act.
Hamferð named themselves after a supernatural occurrence where, according to old Faroese lore, people were visited by an apparition of a person close to them as an omen that the person was about to die. The image is spooky and fantastical, yet poetic and personal—much like the music on Támsins Likam.