About the song
You know how some songs make such an impact on you that you remember exactly where you were and what you were doing when you first heard them? This is one of those. If you haven’t heard it, go have a listen immediately. And you might want to sit down. But then you might need to get up and dance, or cower under the chair, depending.
I, myself, was winding down by taking a twilight walk and had my first listen to the Icelandic selection in the tranquil surrounds of Merri Creek. I had heard murmurings about Hatari but nothing had prepared me for this.
When Hatrið mun sigra started, the industrial beats grabbed my attention straight away. Then Matthías’s crisply enunciated Icelandic bark slapped me in the face. Then that gothic, synth-laden chorus kicked in with Klemens’s angelic, but angst-ridden vocal, and I was a total goner.
Hatrið mun sigra (Hatred Will Prevail) speaks of the inevitability of the collapse of modern society, the illusory nature of happiness, and of the ‘web of lies’ at the heart of everyday life in Europe (a heart that will be impaled) – all will be swallowed by the void.
Hatari is a self-described multi-media art project comprised of vocalists Matthías Tryggvi Haraldsson and Klemens Hattigan, and percussionist Einar Stefansson. Their style has been described as bondage-synth-punk, industrial goth and experimental art pop, amongst other things. The trio were joined by three entrancing dancers for both the video and the live performance of Hatrið mun sigra.
Hatari’s stated mission is to end capitalism. In fact, they issued a statement last year to the effect that the board of their holding company was going to dissolve Hatari due to their failure to meet this objective in a timely manner, and unsatisfactory progress against other key performance indicators. But in the end, they didn’t! They decided that only a stage as big as Eurovision could provide a sufficient platform to pursue their mission.
Their failure to end the industrial-military complex notwithstanding, the satirical band has been quite successful musically. They have won several alternative music awards in Iceland such as Best Live Band in the Grapevine Music Awards (for the past two years), and have been extremely popular at the annual Iceland Airwaves festival.
They never fail to bring eye-catching costumes to their stageshows, generally donning a variety of BDSM gear, with or without clothing underneath, along with novelty contact lenses and other fripperies. And they are not above playing to a mainstream audience, showing their softer side in their final postcard when they… baked a cake for the kiddies. In fact they freely admit they can be bought for the right price. Time will tell whether they will be left asking “Why did I sell myself so cheaply?”
About the video (official clip)
This visual masterpiece sets Hatari’s delightfully demented dancing against the eerily apocalyptic backdrop of Iceland’s industrial and volcanic wastelands and an enormous arctic moonrise. You just need to go and watch it basically.
One of the lighter pieces of eurodrama this year was Hatari’s public challenging of Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu to a bout of Glíma. Glíma is a kind of wrestling wherein the contestants try to topple each other by grabbing each other by the leather belts and leg harnesses that make up part of the costume of Iceland’s national sport. Even better, if Netanyahu accepts the challenge, and Hatari prevails, they win the right to set up Israel’s first BDSM commune.
Conservative factions at home have been critical of Hatari’s political comments, as well as their music. They have taken this in their stride, saying they welcome all critiques, and claim that Margrét Friðriksdóttir, a far-right political commentator who has warned of “unavoidable consequences” should Hatari represent Iceland in Eurovision, was doing a great job as their Public Relations manager.
Hatari also praised Icelandic artists who are boycotting Eurovision 2019 and explained that their approach, since Iceland had regrettably decided to participate, was to try to draw attention to the political situation through their participation. They also made it clear that they were aware that the EBU had the power to disqualify them. The rumour mill quickly turned this into reports that Hatari were planning some kind of protest stunt and would be disqualified, while their more radical friends took them to task for not joining the boycott outright. That furore died down but will no doubt ignite again now that Hatari have won, and many will be watching closely to see what transpires. I would personally be 100% behind them if they should, I don’t know… rip open their jackets to reveal #freepalestine burnt/carved into their chests during their winner’s reprise? One can dare to dream.
Söngvakeppnin and Iceland at Eurovision
Iceland has longed punched above its weight at Eurovision as an island nation with a tiny population, quite isolated from other parts of Europe; but the past several years have not been kind. Iceland hasn’t qualified for the final since 2014, and last year was particularly tough as they came last in their semi-final without a televote point to their name. No doubt, Icelanders are hoping that their bold choice this year will meet with more success.
Iceland’s national final to select their Eurovision entry, Söngvakeppnin, is a little unusual in that the entrants typically release both an Icelandic and an English version of their songs. Hatari was one of only two acts this year to release only an Icelandic version of their song.
I personally felt that last year’s national final was possibly one of the weakest in Europe, and their result in Lisbon was no surprise, despite the eminent likeability of their young contestant, Ari Olafsson.
I was delighted to see Iceland turn things around this year with a strong and diverse mix of entries, from total bops from Daníel Óliver and Tara Mobee, to powerful ballads from returning favourites Hera Björk and Friðrik Omar. There was hardly a weak song in my opinion.
But of course, there could be only one winner, and Hatari was destined to prevail. They clearly won the first semi-final, as well as unveiling their matching tracksuits and training regime, as well as the inspiration behind the key change in their song. A few costume and staging tweaks sharpened their performance even further for the final (and super-final, and reprise… imagine performing that three times in one night).
Chances in Tel Aviv
We all know that to win Eurovision one must, above all, stand out and be remembered. Hatari should have absolutely no issues on that count. Yes, there will be plenty of viewers who will hate Hatari, or won’t get it, but that doesn’t matter as long as there are enough people who not only love and remember this entry, but who will be excited enough to vote.
Some have even suggested their pro-Palestine commentary may have been a strategic move to garner support from all of the Icelanders who were uncomfortable with RUV’s decision not to participate in the contest this year (ironically perhaps keeping these viewers in the fold while allowing them an outlet for their discontent). Whether this will work on the Eurovision stage is yet to be seen, but it does widen the possible voter base for the entry: those who genuinely enjoy this kind of music, those who enjoy a spectacle, those who see this as a novelty/joke/troll entry and enjoy that, and those who want to send a message.
What juries will make of Hatrið mun sigra is another question, but it must be said that their staging will be nothing if not impactful, and they have done a fantastic job so far of recreating the vocals as well as the visual flair of their video live on stage. As seasoned and popular festival performers who also don’t appear to GAF, it’s unlikely that nerves will get the better of them in Tel Aviv. They may get a certain amount of points from juries for originality – and even juries are prone to the memorability effect. Let’s just say that fans should prepare their hearts equally for a disqualification… or Reykjavik 2020.