Icelandic Metal Bands

The best Icelandic metal bands: Rock out to metal bands from Iceland

Icelandic metal bands are an essential part of any true rock-lovers playlist. Though Scandinavia might not seem like the right kind of place to churn out hardcore music, it’s actually one of the best places to go if you’re looking for your latest hard rock anthem.

Home to Vikings and dramatic scenery, Iceland is just one of the many countries throughout the Nordic region popular for its metal music.

In today’s article, we’ll be introducing you to the history of the Icelandic metal band and taking a look at some of the most popular metal bands from Iceland too.

Let’s turn up the volume.

Why is black metal so popular in Iceland?

Let’s start with an insight into the Icelandic metal band, and why the genre is so popular.

As one of the most beautiful and serene places on earth, it’s hard to imagine Iceland being home to some of the more aggressive genres of music. However, just like the rest of Scandinavia, Iceland loves its metal.

You’re sure to find plenty of local bands playing in Reykjavik, and Iceland has its own metal festivals too.

So, why so much metal?

Scandinavian heavy metal bandsare everywhere. Compared to other parts of the world, the Nordic region has the highest proportion of metal bands to residents. While Finland leads the way with around 53.2 metal bands per 100,000 residents, Iceland isn’t too far behind at 22.6.

Comparatively, the UK only has around 5 metal bands per 100,000 residents.

Though defined as one of the world’s most peaceful countries, Iceland is also one of the coldest, and harshest places in the world — particularly during the winter. Throughout the colder months of the years, Icelandic residents usually only get a couple of hours of sun per day.

The landscape might be beautiful, but it’s unforgiving too.

In Iceland, experts believe metal is an outlet for people at the mercy of an unpredictable environment. It’s a way of regaining strength in the fight against the elements.

Icelandic Metal Bands

The beauty behind Icelandic metal

The metal genre is often misunderstood. People without a full appreciation for the artform often label it aggressive or dark. However, there’s more to this musical phenomenon than meets the eye.

For people in Iceland, metal is an opportunity to be part of a rapidly growing community. There’s warmth, love and passion in the crowds gathering for a metal concert.

For Icelanders, metal is also an opportunity to branch out beyond their country. Iceland is a small place, and people wanting to find their fame need to make enough of an impact to surpass geographical borders.

Compared to genres like pop, metal is a more open environment, ready to embrace new superstars.

Though Icelandic metal may be inspired by cold and darkness to some extent, there are also many bands who use the unique nature of their location as inspiration for their songs. Many leading metal bands capture the hearts of listeners with haunting lyrics and images you could only find in Iceland.

Indeed, most Scandinavian metal bands have helped form the foundations for new styles of music.

The best Icelandic metal bands

So, which are the best Icelandic metal bands? As with most music, your preferences will depend heavily on your style, and the kind of metal you enjoy most. Iceland’s rich metal scene means there are plenty of different sounds to choose from.

For those in love with the idea of ambient metal, Solstafir is a popular choice, known for their unique sound and beautiful music videos.

Iceland is also home to some more unique experimental metal bands, like Agent Fresco, a band which combines pop, metal, alternative music and art. If you’re looking for a metal band with a link to Scandinavian history, Skalmold is an amazing Viking metal choice.

Let’s break down some of the most popular Icelandic metal bands by their sub-genre.

Icelandic death metal

Icelandic death metal bands focus heavily on morbid themes and fatality in their music. The death metal scene can include a lot of “melodic” artists, exploring ambient sounds and atmosphere in their music.

There are also death metal artists considered to be highly controversial, as many attempt to shock with their choice of lyrics, band names, and stage presence.

Sororicide

Founded in 1990 by Gisli (vocals), and Gaui (guitar), the Sororicide band started as a thrash metal group, before quickly evolving into death metal. The team quickly earned a record label, with Karl on drums, Frodi on guitar, and Bogi for vocals.

The controversial name “Sororicide” means killing your sister, which is poignant for a death metal troupe.

Today, the band is no longer together, but their music is still popular among fans of the genre.

Beneath

Hailing from Reykjavik, Beneath is a technical death metal band, formed in 2007. The group focuses on darkness, anti-religion, and war in their lyrics. Though they haven’t been around for quite as long as some other death metal titans, Beneath has quickly gained a dedicated following.

The group is currently sponsored by the Unique Leader Records group and released its most recent album in 2017.

Zhrine

Popular in both death metal and extreme metal circles, Zhrene come from the Koavogur area of Reykavik in Iceland. The group started with the name “Gone Postal” in 2007 and won the Wacken Metal Battle in Iceland in 2012.

The band includes Þorbjörn Steingrímsson on vocals and guitar, Ævar Örn Sigurðsson on bass, Nökkvi Gylfason on guitar, and Tumi Snær Gíslason on drums.

Angist

Formed in 2009 and still active today, Angist is a death metal band with some pretty hardcore songs. The group released their EP in 2011, and currently operates under the Abyss records label.

Members include Haraldur Ingi Shoshan on bass, Gyda Hrund Þorvaldsdóttir on guitar, Jakob Reynisson in drums, and Edda Tegeder Óskarsdóttir on vocals.

Icelandic black metal

Icelandic black metal is mostly characterized by dissonant guitar sounds, celestial atmospheres, and rapid, frenzied vocals. The late 80s and 90s in Iceland were important times for the black metal music movement, with many new bands appearing on the scene.

Iceland also has its own festival dedicated to black metal, known as “Ascension”.

Some of the most popular black metal bands include:

Svartidaudi

With a name Icelandic for “black death” it’s fair to expect some unique sounds from Svartidaudi. The band was formed in 2006 by the front man Sturla Vidar and guitarist Þórir Garðarsson. Shrouded in secrecy, the group likes to keep their faces hidden with a lot of makeup.

The sound produced by Svartidaudi is instantly recognizable to fans, thanks to its psychoactive overtones and discordant textures.

Sinmara

Considered by many to be one of the biggest bands in the black metal scene for Iceland, Sinmara has an almost ritualistic sounding approach to music. What sets this brand apart is a calculated and measured feel in their use of unusual sounds, ethereal tones and haunting musical melodies.

Nadra

Considered a major cornerstone of the black metal scene in Iceland, Nadra is one of the more illustrious Icelandic metal bands. Nadra takes a raw approach to musical production and stands out for their passionate vocal performance.

There’s a significant sense of melancholy and sadness in their use of sound.

Wormlust

One of the longer-running metal bands to appear in the Icelandic black metal scene, Wormlust was born from the ashes of another band named Myrk, who are credited with sparking a lot of the metal movement.

The music created by Wormlust is psychedelic and manic, with a lot of unique imagery in their music videos. A lot of the sounds you’ll hear from Wormlust will be chaotic and somewhat unexpected.

Audn

Taking a more emotional and melancholy approach to black metal, Audn is a great listen for those who like more somber music. Sounding similar to another Scandinavian metal band, Emperor, Audn creates a memorable melodic experience with their music.

There’s also some fantastic triple guitar layering.

Icelandic power metal

Icelandic power metal bands are best-known for their amazing ballads, incredible use of guitar and loud, exhilarating songs. Power metal is far more lighthearted than options like black and death metal.

In Iceland, it’s common to find quite a few Icelandic power metal bands with a Viking theme — similar to the power metal bands elsewhere in Scandinavia.

Sólstafir

Regarded by many to be one of the most famous metal bands in Iceland, Solstafir has evolved significantly since their start as a black metal band in the 90s. Today, the music straddles a range of genres, including heavy metal, power metal, and even atmospheric post-rock elements.

Many compositions have a fantastic, yet haunting element to them.

Power Paladin

Hailing from Reykjavik, Power Paladin is a relatively new addition to the Icelandic scene. The group began capturing the attention of local rock and metal fans in 2020, and have since developed a significant following, particularly throughout the Scandinavian region.

The local cult favorites are best-known for their unexpected spiderman-themed debut song, named “Kraven the Hunter”.

Earendel

Though no longer together today, Earendel is a great example of a power metal band from the Icelandic region. The group released their only album “Earandel”, during 2014.

Today, there are still fans out there who appreciate the local sound of the power band’s music, unfortunately, there seems to be no evidence this group will reform at any point in the future.

Compared to other forms of metal, power metal bands are in relatively short supply in Iceland. The country seems to prefer heavier, darker forms of music overall.

Icelandic heavy metal

Icelandic heavy metal bands, like the power metal bands from the country, aren’t as popular as dark and death metal alternatives. However, there’s still a market for this kind of hardcore music throughout the Icelandic region.

Heavy metal tends to stretch across multiple styles of music, including alternative, melodic, and industrial metal.

Here are some great options:

Dimma

Dimma is a metal and heavy rock band based in Reykjavik. Over the years, the group has released four studio albums, with Stefan Jakobsson on vocals, Ingo Geirdal on Guitar, Egill Om Rafnsson on drums, and Silli Geirdal on bass.

The group is still active today, though they haven’t released an album since 2015.

HAM

Probably one of the most popular metal bands in Iceland, HAM is a rock and metal group formed in 1988. The group is frequently listed as a “heavy metal” band, though they don’t categorize themselves in this way.

Gradually, the group has come to be acknowledged as one of the most important groups in Icelandic rock history. The band has a massive group following among rock enthusiasts inside and outside of Iceland.

Kontinuum

An Icelandic rock and metal band made up of Engilbert Hauksson, Birgir Thorgeirsson, Eric Quick, Thorlakur Gudmundsson and Ingi Þór Pálsson. The group was formed in 2010 and released their first album in 2012, followed by two more in 2015 and 2018.

Kontinuum has received significant critical acclaim for their music in the Icelandic metal and rock scene.

Niceland

Formerly known as “Iceland”, Niceland was a heavy metal band created in 1983 by Jaz Colemon from the band, “Killing Joke”. The group has a number of recordings floating around in the digital world today, but there aren’t any albums or singles available.

You may occasionally still here this band mentioned by Iceland rock fans.

Skálmöld

A folk and Viking metal band from Iceland, Skálmöld’s name translates to “Age of Swords”. The group, which formed in 2009, was launched by Snæbjörn Ragnarsson and Björgvin Sigurðsson, childhood friends who decided to form a band.

In 2011, Skálmöld was invited to participate in the Open Air Wacken festival, as well as the Heidenfest 2011 tour.

Icelandic hard rock bands

The genre of “hard rock” can be a complex one to define, particularly in a place like Iceland. Often this concept and the idea of “heavy metal” tend to overlap. Hard rock straddles the line between rock music and more aggressive metal songs.

While there may be some controversy around which bands actually fit the title of “hard rock”, here are our suggestions on some of the best bands to listen to:

Sigur Rós

One of the more complex bands to define from Iceland, Sigur Ros is an Icelandic post-rock band with ambient, alternative rock, and hard rock sounds. The group is best known for ethereal vocals and unique use of shimmering guitar in their content.

The group has been associated with several record labels since their launch in 1994.

Misþyrming

Somewhere between black metal and hard rock, Misþyrming has a strong reputation throughout Iceland for their incredible live performances. The harrowing compositions created by this group have earned a cult following throughout Iceland, though the band has only released one album.

Celebrating Icelandic metal bands

Like many other parts of Scandinavia, one of the best parts of the music scene in Iceland is the incredible festivals held on an annual or semi-annual basis.

For metal lovers who prefer to stay warm indoors, there’s an indoor metal festival called Eistnaflug, which happens in the second weekend of July. The festival lasts a total of four days, with metal, hardcore, rock, punk, and indie bands all taking part.

There’s also a family-friendly version called Neistaflug.

One of the better-known metal festivals worth checking out if you’re visiting Iceland in the winter months, is the Ascension festival. Usually held over a course of three days in November, the incredible musical event is home to some of the biggest metal bands in the world, including fantastic acts from Iceland.

Of course, if you’re looking for a behind-the-scenes glance at some of the up-and-coming musical phenomena in Iceland, you can always explore some local bars. There are plenty of opportunities to soak up some live music and get the feel of Icelandic metal bands outside of the formal festivals and events.

Don’t forget to check out our guides to other Scandinavian metal bands for a full insight into the top musical sensations from all across the region.

Scandification: Discovering Scandinavia.

Now read these:
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Celebrating Swedish metal bands
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Experiencing the Roskilde festival
Scandinavian music festival guide
Your guide to Scandinavian metal

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