Behind the Cover: Kælan Mikla - Undir Köldum Norðurljósum

Becoming one with the boundless audiovisual creativity of the Icelandic trio.

Photograph by Pola Maria

The hotspot that is the Icelandic music scene has yet to settle. At the time, they hold their ground as one of the strongest providers of high tier black metal. Always dark and ethereal, the nation's acts come brimming with creativity and synth-punk trio Kælan Mikla are no exception to the rule. Their entrancing approach hit a high point with this year's release of Undir Köldum Norðurljósum via Artoffact Records, an effort chock full of vibrance and haunting atmosphere. It's a tremendous feat for the tight-knit trio as their work has taken them across all pounds to festival stages of all kinds, including The Cure's Pasadena Daydream and an SXSW showcase among others like Psycho Las Vegas that didn't come to fruition because of the pandemic. This is a testament to the accessibility of their craft, a craft that infiltrates spaces not known to host sound of their kind. It all comes illustrated by French duo Førtifem, who put a face to the Kælan Mikla spirit in ways symbolic and signature to their artistic tendencies.

We go Behind the Cover of Undir Köldum Norðurljósum with the minds behind Kælan Mikla and the artistic collective that is Førtifem to learn of their multifaceted partnership:

‘Undir Köldum Norðurljósum’ came to be over the course of almost two years and now, fans across the world have been able to experience it for themselves. Is it cathartic in any way to have invested so much heart in it and finally get to see it being enjoyed publicly?

KM: Absolutely! This is by far the most time consuming album we ever made, and we worked harder than ever on it, so to see it released feels almost surreal. We put our hearts and souls into this and it’s so heartwarming to see all the positive feedback from our fans.

It's very well deserved! Speaking of your purpose, is Kælan Mikla insular as a group, where you write and compose for yourselves instead of an audience? Or are you particular about the way you compose so that it best resonates with listeners, whether that be sonically or lyrically? Either way, fans have truly embraced ‘Undir’ as one of their own.

KM: We’ve always written first and foremost for ourselves. It’s the only way to stay perfectly true to our creative spirit. We’ve created a world of our own within our music and opened it up to our audience to explore with us this universe of Kælan Mikla. Our fans are a part of it too and that’s what makes it so beautiful.

kaelan mikla
Photograph by Polar Maya

Agreed. Iceland, and Reykjavik in particular, has such a rich musical history to learn and pull from. Currently, your hometown delivers among the best black metal in the world and judging by ‘Undir’, synth-punk as well. Whether it be the atmosphere, the “scene”, or the people in general, do you feed off of this energy as inspiration for wanting to craft something that pleases your creative ambitions?

KM: Iceland has a very prominent musical scene and a lot of people use creativity as an outlet in one way or another. As a nation on