We talk and write about the potential for industrial crossover within the mainstream a great deal on this website. While on paper an Icelandic anti-capitalist BDSM act with aggrotech influences wouldn’t have been a smart bet, even the most cursory of contact with Hatari over the past couple of years communicated their polish and charisma (as we discussed extensively last year). There’s no question that Hatari’s Eurovision antics and social-media savvy have given plenty of younger listeners their first taste of aggressive electronics: a quick search yielded a YouTuber trying to compare Hatari to their regular diet of k-pop, god bless. And so now, after a string of videos kept their name in circulation, Hatari have released their first full LP.
Neyslutrans feels oddly familiar on a first pass, owing in no small part to just how long some of its component parts have been floating about (“Spillingardans” was just starting to heat up industrial dancefloors in the last days of 2018). New video release and opening track “Engin Miskunn” is certainly enjoyable, with a stompy lead and woozy bass, but it does feel like something of a repetition of existing work by the band. “Hatrið Mun Sigra” has lost none of its impact since its late capitalist crucible ran amok on the Eurovision stage, but its presence makes similarly uptempo tracks on the first half of the record feel not as fully realized. To their credit, Hatari get out of that rut as Neyslutrans progresses, with their fusion of industrial stomp and modern EDM production yielding to slower and more experimental tracks.
It’s a record replete with guest spots, with mixed results. Punch ins from Cyber (Jóhanna Rakel and Salka Valsdóttir) and verses from Icelandic MC Svarti Laxness add some new shine here and there, but at times those differences only bring into sharp relief how similar some of the core productions are beneath those featured appearances. Somewhat paradoxically, the off-the-cuff feel of those collaborations underscores a sense of Neyslutrans being less of an LP in the traditional sense and more of a collection of one-offs Hatari have been recording as their star has risen over the past year.
Closing track “Niðurlút” is, however, the real hidden gem. Recalling the circular lament of “Ódýr” from the Neysluvara EP, it forsakes any crossover appeal or amped up dance aggression for shimmering pads and some classic electro-industrial programming which brings VivisectVI to mind. Stately and mournful, it alights upon just the right tone and pace for the band’s doomed and fatalistic side. Neyslutrans is far from a perfect record (and may in fact be evidence that Hatari’s ethos and style just don’t translate to the traditional LP format), but it contains a few indicators that their very strange moment hasn’t yet passed, and may still take on new forms and mutations.