Odin’s Raven Magic, 180G Black Vinyl 2LP, Import
The end of the world looms as Odin, Norse deity of war and death, joins his fellow gods for a banquet. His trusty ravens, Huginn and Muninn, traverse barren fields, gathering the world’s wisdom while the gods feast and watch for omens. This portentous meal is the subject of a poem written in the traditional style of Edda, the collection of Icelandic mythology and prose dating back to the 13th century, and of Sigur Rós’s Odin’s Raven Magic. On the eight-part operatic work, the Icelandic band funnels its serene, immersive style into theatrical storytelling, evoking a lively yet uneasy scene with eerie harmony and cinematic scope that wavers between exuberance and heavy-handed melodrama.
Odin’s Raven Magic is something of a myth itself—though Sigur Rós first performed it live 18 years ago, it’s never received a proper recording. Before now, only fragments of the lengthy work hovered around the internet, captured by eager audiences at crowded shows. This uninterrupted rendition was recorded live in 2004 at La Grande Halle de la Villette in Paris; you might forget it’s a live performance until the end, when the music fades away and applause erupts.
Trading their signature bowed guitar for bowed orchestral instruments, Sigur Rós approach the long history of operas that borrow from mythology with a sense of tranquility. This music swims through melancholy and euphoria, full of grand melodies fit for a Game of Thrones feature film. The strongest moments come when there’s motion, like on “Prologus,” which highlights the orchestra’s subtle shifts between dissonance and consonance, and “Spár eða spakmál,” where a swooping choir, booming horn, and urgent percussion build a sense of exhilaration.