They covered a 800-year-old song. It went viral on YouTube. Of course.

The World
Árstíðir

Icelandic band Árstíðir.

Courtesy of Árstíðir/ Facebook.com/arstidir

The Greek financial crisis has analysts worried all over the globe. Stock markets have the jitters, but we've seen this before.

Remember Iceland?

Yep, the great recession of 2008 began with the collapse of Iceland's economy. And here's some perspective about all this from an unlikely source: a couple of Icelandic musicians.

Karl James Pestka and Ragnar Ólafsson formed the band Árstíðir right as the 2008 crisis began. Which ironically, they say, wasn't entirely a bad thing.

"In the wake of the crash people turned away from material things and turned to more art and stuff that really matters," Ólafsson says. "There was a huge influx of artistic activity in Iceland. That was the scene were we started."

Pestka adds that it was sort of amazing forming Árstíðir when they did. He says it was after the crash that he started to be able to pay rent with music alone.

"That sounds crazy, but we’ve seen this before," Pestka says. "When was the golden age of American film? — right after the Great Depression. People want to be taken somewhere when they are in a depression. And only an artistic experience can really get you out of your circumstances."

For Árstíðir, it was one memorable artistic experience in the form of an a cappella performance in a train station in Germany, that really grabbed them global attention. The performance was caught on video by one of their friends and has since gone viral.

"This is just something we do when we’re in a place with great echo," Pestka says. "We were just enjoying the space and we didn’t know we were being recorded at the time. Afterward our friend took their iPhone recording and we were like ‘ah, we don’t know if this is a tune, if we should put it up.’ But we did, and we we’re very glad we did."

And what did they sing? — a 13th century Icelandic hymn that according to Ólafsson, is very dear to the Icelandic people.

"It’s just the perfect example of the Nordic melancholy," he says. "We love the feeling of sorrow and sadness. The lyrics are very dramatic."

Dramatic indeed. The author of the song, called "Heyr Himna Smiður ("Hear, Smith of heavens)," was dying. Pestka says the songwriter had just gone out into battle and he’d been mortally wounded when he composed the hymn.

While some some musicians don’t pay any attention to classical music, Árstíðir is a band that pulls from classical as well as the pop world.

"I think we pay attention to all the categories," Ólafsson says. "That’s sort of the premise of the band. We came from different directions and brought something to the table."

Pestka adds that some members of the band have more of a classical background while others come from pop.

"We coalesced in sort of a sort of amateur college choir," he says. "We all love singing, that’s what unites us."