After the release of their sophomore album 'Terminal' (2009), Hjaltal¡n were essentially the most popular and respected band in Iceland. 'Terminal' won the Best Album of the Year accolade at the Iceland Music Awards, garnered critical acclaim at home and abroad, and sold well over ten thousand copies. Internally, however, the group was wrought with tension not in the least due to frontman H"gni Egilsson's deterorating mental condition.
Over the next couple of years, the group scattered and focused on different projects (studies abroad, marriage, potentially lucrative careers, other musical and creative outlets...) but came together every now and again during a handful of weekend-long jam- and writing sessions in different parts of rural and urban Iceland. Once the sessions had been committed to hard drive, Egilsson entered a full-blown state of mania that lasted for months and left the band-and the recordings-in limbo while he was in and out of hospitals and mental institutions.
In the autumn of 2012, the band regrouped and worked intensely to complete what is certainly their strongest, most emotional, sincere and mature work to date: 'Enter 4'. The process was one of healing and recovery, both for the group and Egilsson; a negotiation between art, madness and friendship. The lyrics explore ideas experienced first-hand in otherworldly states and evoke the grey areas of existence, the fleeting points between sickness and health, normal and abnormal, often questioning these very boundaries. The 'four' of the title refers to a fourth dimension, not the one of time, but a separate existential plane that Egilsson could see and touch and feel during his extended bouts of manic behaviour. In his state, he grew sensitive to religious and mystical symbols, numerology and alternative epistemology, which art director Siggi Odds brought to the forefront in his unique, beautiful yet unsettling cover art.
'Smalls Change (Meditations Upon Ageing)' arrives in April.
The two awards have made for a great 72nd birthday present for the country music icon.