Screaming Masterpiece, a documentary directed by Ari Alexander Ergis Magnusson, is out on DVD. Running just under an hour and a half, it is an overview of Icelandic pop music, concentrating principally on modern music but also delving into ’80′s tunes and even looking at Viking music from centuries ago. The question posed on the DVD’s cover is why this music is so hot, and various artists interviewed on the disc give viewers their perspective.

As to whether the music is hot or not, that depends on one’s tastes. For my part, I found it to be interesting but nothing that I saw myself running out to buy. But it is definitely different from music on the contemporary American pop scene. Much of it is very ambient-like, with a hint of metal or hard rock running underneath. And there is a great variety of instruments, many of which I think were probably invented by the bands that use them.

All in all, it is an interesting documentary. Clips of the bands performing are mixed with interviews as well as some shots of the Icelandic landscape and some views of Reykjavik, the capital and largest city, and several smaller towns. The commentary delves into the history and culture of Iceland, with many artists searching to define themselves as Icelanders and express what that means. For my part, I came away impressed by how much music was produced and how many bands and orchestras and choral groups thrive in this nation of merely 300,000 people. Wisely, the documentary does not run too long, because despite the effort put into the editing, the repetition would make a longer piece harder to endure.

Documentaries always seem to get high grades on Rotten Tomatoes; perhaps they are easier to make interesting. That’s as may be, but it is still interesting. Anyone with an interest in Iceland, music and/or Vikings might just want to give it a try.


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