While the name Þheyr means “thaw,” it took a while for this pioneering Reykjavik band, featuring soon-to-be Sugarcubes drummer Sigtryggur Baldursson, to get any heat going on record. The debut, Pagad i hel, is little more than lukewarm jazz-rock fusion with a few damp detours into new wave-ish boogie and vanilla reggae. In a word, unlistenable.
Two years (and two singles; the latter is a sharply compelling four-song 10-inch) later, Þheyr was a much different — and far more compelling — band. On Mjôtvidur Maer and its revised English-language counterpart, As Above, they kick out the punk-funk jams in the serrated, apocalyptic style of the Fall and Killing Joke. The dark, droney guitar work also shows strong traces of Bauhaus and Joy Division, while there’s more than a hint of the Residents’ art-rock terrorism in the weirdly distorted, declamatory vocals and idiosyncratic songwriting. The English lyrics on As Above are the only bringdown — earnest but overwrought tripe, most of which is thankfully obscured by the band’s inspired musical turbulence.
Þheyr never lived up to its obvious promise. The Fourth Reich is a fine four-track EP released shortly before the group broke up in 1983. (A three-cut swansong, “Lunaire,” ended the story; three tracks recorded with Jaz Coleman of Killing Joke remain unreleased.) Baldursson then joined the notorious Kukl, which eventually mutated into the Sugarcubes.