Þeyr – “The Fourth Reich” EP

I dipped into my Icelandic vinyl the other day for the first time in a while. Due to limited shelf space the Icelandic stuff is in a completely different room than the rest of my records, and sometimes out of sight is out of mind. I don’t add to it often either, so I could easily go weeks at a time without even catching a glance of all those gems hidden away in a cabinet behind frosted doors. But recently I’ve been playing the hell out of one of my Warsaw records, and I couldn’t help but notice some similarities between some of their songs and the sound of their Icelandic contemporaries Þeyr. Which got me thinking about, and playing, some of that great Icelandic vinyl.

The Fourth Reich came out in 1982 and is one of the last releases by the band, coming out the same year as the English language compilation As Above… (which did include a couple of new tracks as well) and was followed only by the Lunaire 7″ the following year. The EP generated significant controversy with what many deemed to be Nazi imagery on the cover combined with a title that also carried Nazi connotations. In fact the man shown on the front is psychotherapist/inventory/crazy idea guy Wilhelm Reich, and the image on the armband he’s wearing is actually the symbol of orgone energy, a sort of new age idea of Reich’s. Ironically Reich had written critically about fascism and in fact his works were banned by the Nazis. Regardless, someone decided to come out with an alternate jacket that just had the EP name on it. I was fortunate enough to find my Icelandic label version not in Iceland, but at a great shop called Trash Palace in Stockholm, Sweden.

Musically I find The Fourth Reich to be more straight ahead early new wave, especially the two tracks on side A. On the flip side “Zen” gets back to that more familiar, odd territory that defines Þeyr’s sound to me, with seemingly unusual cords and timing changes, and “Blood” also has a lot more of their original sound. I forget how good these guys were sometimes. One of these days I’ll finally break down, bite the bullet, and pay an outrageous amount of money for their debut LP Þagað Í Hel, renowned both for its rarity and because the masters were supposedly destroyed in a fire… so no CD forthcoming. Maybe I’ll be able to track one down to purchase on our trip to Airwaves this fall. We’ll see.

For an introduction to Þeyr, I recommend the 12-song compilation Mjötviður Til Fóta released back in 2001. It is, of course, out of print and collectible in its own right, but it’s also the most reasonably priced introduction to the band outside of listening to songs on YouTube. They’re worth the effort.