Heavy music is often at its most powerful when, on a creative level, caution is thrown to the wind. But you don't generally expect bands to smash open the doors of riff-centric perception on their debut album. Therefore, it seems reasonable to infer that IOTUNN are not like other bands. Not least due to the magical vocal presence and charisma of HAMFERÐ's Jón Aldará, "Access All Worlds" is, from start to finish, an immersive, spine-tingling feast for the ears. Audaciously tricky to pin down, this Danish crew have conjured something wonderfully distinctive here. Marrying the epic bluster of black and pagan metal to the lysergic rush of space rock and the strident melodies of the prog and power worlds, they've conjured something simultaneously fresh and familiar, not to mention colossally epic in a way that most supposedly epic metal records can only dream about.
Opener "Voyage of the Garganey I" was released as a single recently, and it set the scene for this extraordinary album perfectly with seven minutes of grandiloquent, shimmering, melodic metal. Spiritually rooted in extremity but blessed with grand theatrical flair, IOTUNN sound like the house band for some unfathomable intergalactic voyage through alien dimensions and swarms of marauding spaceships. The reported concept behind "Access All Worlds" seems to hint at a collective love of dark science fiction and the philosophical turmoil that often comes with it, but there is also something thrillingly joyful about the immaculate, stirring bombast on display here.
The title track is even more astonishing: with its glacial gait recalling "Twilight…" BATHORY, but with the emotional depths and fizzing crescendos of WHILE HEAVEN WEPT at their sky-rending best, it's progressive and perverse in equal measure. There is even a hint of frostbitten black metal tension pulsing in the background, as Aldará's multi-octave sermonizing swirls across a maze of riffs and tearstained motifs for 12 fascinating minutes. It all sounds vast, as if beamed across galaxies by some metal-friendly cosmic deity, but still with a sturdy backbone of brutal precision.
Throughout it all, IOTUNN sound delighted by their own limitless imaginations. From the dense and sprawling "Waves Below" and the pitch-black gothic squall of "The Tower of Cosmic Nihility" to the blastbeat-boosted, psychedelic futurism of 14-minute closer "Safe Across the Endless Night", the sheer strength and sophistication of the Danes' musical vision — at, it probably bears repeating, the first attempt — is worthy of celebration. Something special is happening here, folks.