Þursaflokkurinn – “Þursabit”

You don’t generally find old school Icelandic albums for sale on eBay by sellers located in the US (well, maybe you do… I rarely seem to), so when I do run across something I try to take advantage of the opportunity. Even if it’s a record by a band that I was very ho-hum about when I reviewed them previously, which was due in large part to the fact that I’m not a prog rock fan (I don’t own any Rush or Supertramp records, nor have I ever). So that is why I pulled the trigger on a copy of 1979s Þursabit from Þursaflokkurinn for $25… probably about half of what it would cost to get it in Iceland. How it made it to New York, where the seller was located, I’ll never know.

Now, to be fair, this is a highly regarded album in Iceland, or at least it is according to the 2009 book on the Top 100 Icelandic albums I bought when I was at Airwaves last year, which lists Þursabit in the #28 slot (9,500 copies produced, BTW…), sandwiched between KK Band (who I’ve never heard of…) and Megas (who is brilliant). Not bad. Too bad the damn book is written in Icelandic, otherwise perhaps I could enlighten you with some nuggets about the band… but Rosetta Stone still doesn’t offer software to learn Icelandic, so I guess I’m screwed for now. We’ve made six trips to Iceland, and so far all I’ve come away with is “takk”, Icelandic for “thanks”. My complete ineptitude when it comes to foreign languages is staggering, though seemingly everyone in Iceland is fluent in English, so it’s easy to get lazy and not learn anything. Takk, my Icelandic friends, for speaking English so well.

Anyway… after listening to the first side of Þursabit I was pleasantly surprised. Yes, it is absolutely prog rock, and no I’m not suddenly filled with the urge to run out and try to track down a used copy of Thick as a Brick (I believe you get a copy of Thick as a Brick any time you sign a lease to open a record store, because every used store has it). But I have to say I like this better than their 1980 release Á Hljómleikum. It’s pretty jazzy, and maybe that helps. But I was also caught off guard by the songs “Brúðkaupssálmur” and “Brúðkaupsvisur” (which are really more like one continuous song, especially given that the first track is only 0:35 long). These songs could be the prog rock genesis, the primordial musical soup if you will, of some of the songs by my favorite in-your-face Icelandic metal band, Skálmöld. Sometimes when I make tenuous connections like this people are shocked at my aptitude for connecting two seemingly different things in a way that makes sense. More often than not though they look at me like I just said I was thinking about investing my life savings in a traveling flea circus (“It’ll be huge, which is ironic because fleas are so small!”) or that the cover of this album is artistically brilliant (it’s creepy as hell). So you’ll have to decide for yourself about the validity of my Skálmöld connection.

Þursabit isn’t half bad (and it’s not half terrible either). It does have a bit of chanting, which I actually like, so that admittedly scored some points in its favor. I doubt it will make it off the shelf very often, but I’m still glad I got it, as it’s an important part of the Icelandic scene, when prog rock was popular and punk just starting to make it’s initial, though somewhat delayed, arrival to the island. So to you, Sigurður Ingvarsson, who apparently bought this album back in 1979 and promptly wrote your name on both the cover and the record label, I say takk!

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