Iceland is such a fascinating country, filled with rich culture and lovely landscapes. It also gave the world bands like Of Monsters And Men and artists like Björk. But the country has a little secret that the world needs to know. It’s brutal, it’s heavy, and they’re ready to show off the heavy side of Iceland.
Une Misère (French for “a misery”) are a metallic hardcore band consisting of vocalist Jón Már Ásbjörnsson, guitarist Gunnar Ingi Jones, guitarist/vocalist Fannar Már Oddsson, bassist Þorsteinn Gunnar Friðriksson, and drummer Benjamín Bent Árnason, who formed back in 2016. The group started to gain some popularity with the release of their 2017 mixtape 010717 as well as their victory at Wacken Open Air’s Metal Battle that same year. Since then, they have done shows with Arch Enemy, Cattle Decapitation, and their idols, Lamb Of God. The quartet will be releasing their debut album Sermon on November 1 via Nuclear Blast, a label starring such amazing groups like Municipal Waste, Slayer, and Hatebreed.
But all of this wouldn’t have been possible if Ásbjörnsson didn’t quit drinking.
“I can honestly say that I would not be a part of this band if I wasn’t sober,” vocalist Jón Már Ásbjörnsson recalled. “That is a good driving force for me to actually stay sober because the guys know that they don’t wanna be in a band with not-sober me. I’m this close to my dream, and I can achieve that just by not drinking. It makes it kind of simple and achievable, like a day at a time. So as long as I don’t drink today, then I might not drink tomorrow, and that brings me one day closer to doing whatever I wanna do for the rest of my life. I wanna stand on stage, and do this.”
“I can honestly say that I would not be a part of this band if I wasn’t sober”
Ásbjörnsson quit drinking in late 2016, shortly after the band got together and with the help of his girlfriend. His battle with addiction can be found in the track “Damages.” On the song, Ásbjörnsson sings about his demons and while we can cure our mental demons, we may never fully get rid of them. On it, Ásbjörnsson cries out, “The pressure of being alive / Becomes too much, for me to handle on my own / This misery is a constant, burden / Leave me, before I leave myself hanging.”
If you’re suffering with your own battle against addiction, he has some encouraging words you want to hear. “Just do whatever you need to do,” he pleads. “That’s basically what you gotta do.” He also says if you have to cancel your friends or a toxic environment in order to stay sober, do what you must. “Drugs can be a lot of fun, but you’re not fun on them.”
Ásbjörnsson writes his songs straight from the heart, packing each song with raw emotion. “The lyrics that I write are all based on either personal experiences or what I’ve been going through or is happening in my surroundings,” he says. “[Sermon] is heavily based on my battle against addiction, the topics of mental issues and mental health are quite heavily discussed on the album, as is everything from veganism to trying to get by yourself in anyway. The message that I’m trying to get through with the lyrics is ‘we gotta stick together,’ if you need help with anything, don’t be afraid to ask for it. There’s always somebody that’s gonna wanna help you.”
“The message that I’m trying to get through with the lyrics is ‘we gotta stick together,’ if you need help with anything, don’t be afraid to ask for it”
The group signed with Nuclear Blast back in January, and that decision was made by their manager Simon Füllemann, who, according to Ásbjörnsson, said that he “wanted to go higher,” as they had another deal on the table with another label. They spent this year working with producer Sky van Hoff (Caliban, Emigrate, Rammstein) and his team creating Sermon. When asked about the process of the album, Ásbjörnsson said van Hoff and his team brought out the best in Une Misère, revealing that “they got things out of us that we almost didn’t think that we had.”
Back in February, the quartet were nominated for Best Newcomer and Best Rock Song by the Icelandic Music Awards, which the band said was quite a surprise. Ásbjörnsson said, “It meant a lot to us. To us it meant, ‘ok, they know that we’re here, and they know that we mean what we mean.’ It was very gratifying and humbling at the same time because our type of music usually falls under the radar. If there’s no clean singing, nobody likes it. These committees here in Iceland, they don’t follow it.”
Une Misère have big, big plans lined up for 2020, but aren’t allowed to say what they are. Ásbjörnsson simply told us to keep our eyes open.