31 Best Rock Bands From Iceland

The greatest Icelandic rockers...

Ultimate Guitar
31 Best Rock Bands From Iceland

Iceland, land of volcanoes and glaciers, is a Nordic island country in the North Atlantic Ocean. And its unique geography and history also affected the music. A lot of famous modern musicians and composers were born in Iceland: Jóhann Jóhannsson, Ólafur Arnalds, Valgeir Sigurðsson, Ólöf Arnalds, Emilíana Torrini, Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson, Ásgeir...

So we prepared a list of 31 famous rock bands which are from Iceland - check it out below!

And before starting here's the (as always really lengthy) list of honorable mentions that are worth your attention (we put it in an alphabetical order for your comfort - feel free to discover something new). You can skip it just by scrolling down if you want:

  • Á Móti Sól
  • Árstíðir Lífsins
  • ADHD
  • Amaba Dama
  • Angist
  • Auðn
  • B.Sig
  • Bellatrix [Kolrassa Krókríðandi]
  • Beneath
  • Benni Hemm Hemm
  • Benny Crespo's Gang
  • Black Desert Sun
  • Blindfold
  • Bloodgroup
  • Börn
  • Brain Police
  • Carpe Noctem
  • Celestine
  • Changer
  • Churchhouse Creepers
  • Curse
  • Dark Harvest
  • Dead Skeletons
  • Dikta
  • Dimma
  • Draugsól
  • Dynfari
  • Eik
  • Eldberg
  • Feldberg
  • Flames of Hell
  • FM Belfast
  • Fortíð
  • Fufanu
  • Gavin Portland
  • Godchilla
  • Gone Postal
  • Grafir
  • Grísalappalísa
  • GusGus
  • HAM
  • Hinn Íslenzki Þursaflokkur
  • Hjaltalín
  • Hljómar
  • I Adapt
  • Icecross
  • Jagúar
  • Jakobínarína
  • Jónas og Einar
  • Just Another Snake Cult
  • Katla.
  • Kimono
  • Kiriyama Family
  • Kriki
  • Kvlt.Kaos.Klvb
  • Lay Low
  • Leaves
  • Lockerbie
  • Lokbrá
  • Lucy in Blue
  • Mammút
  • Mannveira
  • Maus
  • Menn Ársins
  • Mezzoforte
  • Mínus
  • Momentum
  • Mono Town
  • Moses Hightower
  • My bubba
  • Náttúra
  • Naðra
  • Nexion
  • NYIÞ
  • Ojba Rasta
  • ONI
  • Ophidian I
  • Ourlives
  • Oyama
  • Parachutes
  • Pascal Pinon
  • Pollapönk
  • Pornopop
  • Potentiam
  • Purrkur Pillnikk
  • RetRoBot
  • Reykjavik!
  • Reykjavíkurdætur
  • Sálin hans Jóns míns
  • Samaris
  • Show Me Wolves
  • Sign
  • Sin Fang
  • Sinmara
  • Skálmöld
  • Slowblow
  • Sóley
  • Sororicide
  • Spilverk Þjóðanna
  • Strigaskór nr. 42
  • Svanfríður
  • Svartidauði
  • Tappi Tíkarrass
  • The Vintage Caravan
  • Thor's Hammer
  • Tilbury
  • Trabant
  • Trúbrot
  • Útidúr
  • Who Knew
  • Worm Is Green
  • Wormlust
  • Ylja

And here's the actual list:

31. Misþyrming

Misþyrming are one of the most notable names on the rather small but really unique Icelandic black metal scene. Band name is Icelandic for "Mistreatment."

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30. Þeyr

Þeyr (also known as Theyr) were a renowned Icelandic New Wave/post-punk band from the early eighties. Shrouded under a veil of mystery, their three-year existence (from 1980 to 1983) was characterized by a deep interest in ancient wisdom. Þeyr helped bring about the New Wave movement in Iceland and became one of the first Icelandic bands to be known abroad.

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29. Valdimar

Valdimar are an Icelandic indie pop/rock band that was established in 2009 as a duo by Valdimar Guðmundsson and Ásgeir Aðalsteinsson, both originating from Keflavik. They have since expanded to a six member group.

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28. Kontinuum

Kontinuum are a progressive/post-metal band from Reykjavik, Iceland. Started as the brainchild of Birgir Thorgeirsson, a founding and current member of dark metal act Potentiam. The band was born with the aim to make "hypnotic and spiritual musical noise."

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27. We Made God

Icelandic post-rock/post-metal band We Made God's debut album has been touted as "Referencing the otherworldly ambient atmospherics of Sigur Rós and Deftones' driving, muscular riffs" by Q Magazine. Kerrang magazine also selected them as one of their Must Hear acts of 2008. We Made God are also known for their atmospheric live performances.

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26. For a Minor Reflection

Starting life as a hard rock duo in a tiny garage in Reykjavik, Iceland, For a Minor Reflection morphed into an indie rock trio (for a week or so) and a blues quartet (for a little longer) before finally arriving at their current incarnation: one of the best instrumental post-rock groups from Iceland.

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25. Hjálmar

Hjálmar are an Icelandic reggae band that has been playing together for about 4 years. They enjoyed much success in Iceland, and made Icelandic reggae something to talk about and listen to. They toured a bit during the summer of 2006 and ended with a farewell concert in Skriðuklaustur, Iceland on August 20, 2006.

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24. Low Roar

Low Roar were started by Ryan Karazija, musician from San Franciso, California, when he subsequently relocated to Reykjavik, Iceland and started the new band after his previous project Audrye Sessions. Low Roar mix indie rock, electronic, folk and more in their music.

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23. Ampop

Ampop are an Icelandic melodic pop/rock band from Reykjavik, Iceland. The name of the band is actually the name of the first song they ever wrote, and is made from the words ambient and pop, which they thought was the definition of the music they were making at that time.

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22. Kaleo

Kaleo are an Icelandic indie rock/blues/folk band established in 2012 and their first major public appearance Iceland Airwaves Music Festival in November 2012. Their fame came through the song "Vor í vaglaskógi" as it was included on heavy rotation on Icelandic state broadcaster RÚV's radio station Rás 2 featuring on top of the stations Top 10.

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21. Hjaltalín

The band Hjaltalín began as a one-act thing in the music scene of MH, a Reykjavik gymnasium (in 2004) that is renowned for harboring musicians. Things have evolved since then, personnel changed, and the band has actually changed course regarding musical styles in the meantime, although the band is certainly hard to categorize with influences ranging from contemporary indie rock to '60s pop music to classical music or acid jazz.

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20. Quarashi

Quarashi are an alternative hip-hop/rapcore band from Reykjavík, Iceland, active from 1996 through 2005. The band's releases topped the Icelandic album charts. They reunited in 2016 to work on a new album.

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19. Singapore Sling

Singapore Sling are a shoegaze band from Reykjavik, Iceland. The group was formed in 2000 by singer-songwriter and guitarist Henrik Björnsson, aided by his friend, guitarist Einar Þór Kristjánsson. Their neo-psychedelia sound has often been compared by the media to acts such as The Velvet Underground, My Bloody Valentine, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Serena Maneesh.

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18. Skálmöld

Skálmöld are a Viking/folk metal band from Reykjavik, Iceland, formed in 2009. The band's name is literally translated as "Age of Swords" and also means "lawlessness," referring to the Age of the Sturlungs of Icelandic history.

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17. KUKL

KUKL were an experimental post-punk/gothic rock group active in the 1980s. The name means "witch" in Medieval Icelandic. The band was formed in August 1983 when Ásmundur Jónsson from Gramm Records wanted to create an avant-garde supergroup to perform on the final episode of a radio show called "Áfangar." He assembled Björk Guðmundsdóttir, then vocalist of Tappi Tíkarrass; Einar Örn Benediktsson, a trumpeter and vocalist in Purrkur Pillnikk; keyboardist Einar Arnaldur Melax, from Medúsa; Birgir Mogensen, the bassist from Spilafífl; and finally drummer Siggtryggur Baldursson and guitar player Guðlaugur Kristinn Óttarsson (a.k.a. Godkrist), both from the band Þeyr.

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16. Vök

Vök are quite a young group, formed early 2013. Shortly thereafter they participated in and won the prestigious Icelandic battle of the bands, Músíktilraunir. Vök combine dreamy electronics with melodic vocals, guitars and distant saxophones.

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15. Slowblow

Slowblow are an Icelandic musical duo consisting of Orri Jónsson and Dagur Kári Pétursson, formed in the early 1990s. Their music is an aesthetic of home-made, lo-fi analog tinkerings, which often slips into both electronic and folksy terrain. They created the soundtrack for the successful independent Icelandic movie "Nói Albínói," which Dagur directed, and have worked with other Icelandic artists.

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14. Agent Fresco

Agent Fresco are an Icelandic band, combining pop, alternative, art, metal, and math-rock, formed in 2008 just weeks prior to competing in the Músíktilraunir (an Icelandic version of Battle of the Bands) which they won. They also won "best guitar," "best drumming" and "best bass playing."

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13. Apparat Organ Quartet

Apparat Organ Quartet are a band founded in 1999 by Jóhann Jóhannsson, Hörður Bragason, Músikvatur and Úlfur Eldjárn. Despite their name however, they are a five piece band consisting of four keyboard players and a drummer. The "quartet" sometimes describe their music as "Machine Rock and Roll," and indeed the band's sound veers between pulsing floor-fillers and headbanging anthems, served with a mixture of Kraftwerk-inspired electronics, Daft Punk-like robot voices and hard rock beats.

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12. Árstíðir

Formed in the wake of the 2008 stock market crash, Árstíðir found themselves catapulted to the top of the Icelandic music charts within six months of their debut album, and then forged ahead with their 2010 tour despite a volcanic eruption that stalled global travel. In 2012, Árstíðir was the first Icelandic band to ever win the Eiserner Eversteiner European Folk Music Award (in Plauen, Germany) and were scheduled to play the prestigious TFF Rudolstadt festival in July 2013.

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11. Rökkurró

Rökkurró are an Icelandic five-piece folk rock/inie/pop band from Reykjavík, Iceland formed in 2006. Their debut album "Það kólnar í kvöld.." (meaning "It's Getting Colder Tonight" in Icelandic) was released in 2007 in Iceland, Europe and Japan to great critical acclaim, followed by a local tour in Iceland and an international tour that included Germany, The Netherlands and Switzerland supporting Ólafur Arnalds.

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10. Seabear

Icelandic indie folk band Seabear started as a one-man project of Sindri Már Sigfússon in 2003. Performing for some time as a trio from 2005, the band grew to seven pieces in 2006.

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9. Stafrænn Hákon

Stafrænn Hákon ("Digital Hákon") is originally a post-rock one-man band by Icelandic musician Ólafur Josephsson. The music of the project has through the last years been described as a mix of post-rock, lo-fi, ambient guitar & electronica which still holds true to some extent though he with each album takes a giant leap and keeps growing as a musician.

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8. Bang Gang

Bang Gang is a one-man band from Iceland. The voice, instrumentalist, arranger and producer Barði Jóhannsson began his silent career in a surf band, together with his friend Henrik Baldvin Björnsson, who has later formed a band called Singapore Sling. Barði started to dedicate himself to more pop sound, collaborating with female singers, such as Esther Talia Casey and Védís Hervör Árnadóttir.

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7. Amiina

Originally a string quartet formed by four girls at the Reykjavik College of Music in the late 1990s, Amiina (formerly Amína) went on to cut its teeth as Sigur Rós' string section for the next decade. Since 2009 Amiina became a sextet. Their music is made with a great number of instruments and contains elements of minimalistic style, contemporary classical, ambient, and electronic loops. In their performances each member will play many instruments, sometimes moving across the stage, going from one instrument to another in mid-song.

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6. Retro Stefson

Retro Stefson are an Icelandic alternative/pop-band formed in 2006 in Reykjavik. They have been named one of the most prominent Icelandic bands to emerge in the 21st century.

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5. The Sugarcubes

The Sugarcubes (Sykurmolarnir in Icelandic) were an alternative rock group from Reykjavik, Iceland. For most of their career, the band consisted of Björk Guðmundsdóttir (vocals, keyboards), Einar Örn Benediktsson (vocals, trumpet), Þór Eldon (guitar), Bragi Ólafsson (bass), Magga Örnólfsdóttir (keyboards) and Sigtryggur Baldursson (drums). They received critical and popular acclaim internationally.

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4. Sólstafir

Starting as a black metal group in 1994, Sólstafir later became one of the most known and unique bands from Iceland, creating their own blend of progressive metal with beautiful melodies, psychedelic moments and a strong undercurrent of classical, folk and rock music.

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3. múm

Múm are an experimental group from Iceland whose music is characterized by soft vocals, eccentric beats and colorful effects, and a variety of traditional and unconventional instruments. Originally a duo, the band later has expanded and has counted 15-20 people along the way.

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2. Of Monsters and Men

Of Monsters and Men are an indie folk/pop group formed in 2010 in Keflavík/Garðabær, Iceland. The band won the Músíktilraunir in 2010, an annual battle of the bands competition in Iceland. In 2011, Of Monsters and Men released their debut album "My Head Is an Animal," that reached the No.1 position in Australia, Iceland, Ireland and the U.S. Rock and Alternative Charts, while peaking at No. 6 on the U.S. Billboard 200 album chart, No. 3 in the UK, and Top 20 of most European charts and Canada. Of Monsters and Men also won the 2013 European Border Breakers Awards.

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1. Sigur Rós

Definitely the epitome of Icelandic music scene, Sigur Rós are active since 1994 and known for their ethereal sound, frontman Jónsi's falsetto vocals, and the incorporation of classical and minimalist aesthetic elements into their music. They're also known for "Vonlenska," the non-literal language that forms the unintelligible lyrics sung by the band on some songs, in particular by Jónsi. It is also commonly known by the English translation of its name, Hopelandic. However, not all Sigur Rós songs are in Hopelandic; many are sung in Icelandic. Sigur Rós has sold over 2.5 million albums worldwide.

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0. Björk

And although not being a band, Björk is undeniably the best known artist from Iceland! Over her four-decade career, she has developed an eclectic musical style that draws on a wide range of influences and genres spanning electronic, pop, experimental, classical, trip-hop, IDM, and avant-garde styles. Singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer, DJ and actress, her approach to all forms of art is truly unique.

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Know more bands from Iceland? Feel free to share them in the comment section below.

40 comments sorted by best / new / date

    When are you guys going to do Russia? You're headquartered there. I assume you know some kickass Russian bands!  
    Hah, nice suggestion! We have just TONS of great bands in Russia, but most of them are mostly unknown outside the country. Therefore, it will not be very easy to compile such a list (you know, to choose only 25-30 out of ALL these bands) - but if you really want this, we will try and make the list
    *pauses current netflix show* *puts on Sigur Ros* *closes eyes and lets the days pain fade away*
    Agent Fresco for me is just mindblowing... Have seen them a couple of times now, their talent is incredible. Amazing songwriting and so much refinement in their sound and songs. 
    It's amazing how many bands have come out of Iceland considering its tiny population. Decent bands as well.
    Been listening to Sigur Ros since 2005 when Takk... was released. Glósóli still blows me away to this day. 
    Great to see Auðn, Grafir and Zhrine on the honorable mentions - Icelandic black metal stuff is the dopest shit out there at the moment! I love how a lot of the current Icelandic metal bands have their few phsychedelic moments here and there.
    This might not be a rock band, but they're also from Iceland and they're smooth as fuck, check them out.
    Thailand and Peru have some good bands too. Big Ass (thai) and Libido (Peru) are my favorites, but there are many interesting artists in those countries. And of course, my country (Brazil) has a very rich music culture. From metal to reggae. You guys should think about doing lists about these. I'm sure you wont regret
    Just found Kaleo last year, it was my favorite discovery of the year and damn that album is solid. Saw them live a few months ago, insanely spot on and their cover of Bang Bang is just epic. I think they might become big in a few years
    31bands and over 100 honorable mentions? I always thought that Iceand had a populating of 50 people in total xD
    Here's a quote from Wikipedia: "Iceland has a population of 332,529 and an area of 103,000 km2, making it the most sparsely populated country in Europe." So Iceland has sooo many bands
    Good job, you forgot Une Misere, Great Grief, Conflictions, Grit Teeth and ITCOM. Yet somehow you managed to mention Show Me Wolves? Have you actually listened to these bands? -Michael from Bristol
    I am from iceland and this list is total crap. Half of the bands cannot be considered as rock, an you put the best metal band in Icelands history at number 18...
    What about Dimma, Stripshow, Bootlegs, Trassarnir, Strigaskór nr. 42, Mortuary/In Memoriam, Sororicide, Kolrassa Krókríðandi/Bellatrix etc? Loads of bands that deserve a mention but are completely ignored.
    Agent Fresco should be Top 10 at least. They are one of the most amazing bands that emerged in the last 5 years imo.
    The instant I saw the headline I knew Sigur Rós would be #1, and they certainly deserve it so. They are kinda the Icelandic answer to Radiohead, a band that constantly experiments and changes style on every album, yet still has a distinct sound throughout their career - And if you've only heard Hoppípolla (the song played on every nature documentary ever) and think they're just another huge happy-go-lucky indie-pop band, you could not be more wrong...
    I only know Agent Fresco, and thats just because friends of mine played with them a few times!