The Linear Scaffold

Solefald - The Linear Scaffold ©1997 AvantGarde Music
1. Jernlov
2. Philosophical Revolt
3. Red View
4. Floating Magenta
5. The Macho Vehicle
6. Countryside Bohemians
7. Tequila Sunrise
8. When The Moon Is On The Wave

What an interesting album this is. The Norwegian duo that is Solefald has created a very coherent and varied blend of black metal along the lines of Arcturus, Wildhoney-era Tiamat, Opeth, and Elend. It would not be fair to tag this release as a knockoff of Arcturus' La Masquerade Infernale, to which it is similar in a number of respects, if only because both albums were released the same year. What we have here is more of a community of spirits (whatever that is).

Pompous but not overbearing, grandiose but not bombastic, The Linear Scaffold veers and swerves between screechy, fast black metal ("Red View", "When the Moon..."), Norwegian poetry couched against symphonic (and remarkably cheeseless) keyboards ("Tequila Sunrise"), loopy textures ("Red View"), staid Borknagaresque clean vocals ("Philosophical Revolt", "When the Moon..."), slower Opeth-y / early In the Woods-y acoustic guitar-driven pre- and interludes ("When the Moon...") and whispered bits. The songs are often complex but well-structured, and contrasting parts flow into and out of one another seamlessly. The lyrics (in English and Norwegian) are poetic, engaged and lofty (albeit a bit overdone at times). The production is very clean and well-balanced, although it lacks the dynamic range and crystal-clear punch of Arcturus' La Masquerade Infernale or Emperor's IX Equilibrium. It is also mastered a tad low. But have no fear, this is nothing like Borknagar-muddy or Metallica-flat.

Serious attention has been paid to the packaging of the CD, which comes in a glossy digipak with a very fitting cover. My only beef with this album is that it is rather short (under forty minutes); this kind of musical vision seems to benefit from a longer presentation time.

Highly recommended for people who like interesting dark music.

Review by Rog The Frog Billerey-Mosier

Review date: 09/2000

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Solefald - Neonism ©1999 AvantGarde Music
1. Fluorescent (The Total Orchestra)
2. Speed Increased To Scaffold
3. CK II Chanel No 6
4. Proprietors Of Red
5. A Motion Picture
6. Omnipolis
7. Backpacka Baba
8. Third Person Plural
9. 04.34 PM
10. The New Timelessness

If I had to describe Neonism in a word, I would choose "eclectic." This album plays like a musical collage, with utterly distinct scraps paradoxically giving rise to, of all things, a sense of unity of purpose. Really, Cornelius and Lazare are the black metal equivalent to Mr. Bungle, or perhaps Arcturus's kindred spirit. One almost needs a flair for the bizarre to truly appreciate what Solefald are attempting to do.

Neonism is a formidable work, both lyrically and musically. Perhaps too ambitious for its own good, it nevertheless is a quite enjoyable fusion of dissimilar elements, including black metal, trip-hop, pop music, and jazz. From "Fluorescent (The Total Orchestra)"'s carnival-like keyboards to Lazare's kaleidoscopic vocal performance (from black metal screams to singing to slam-style spoken word), this album is a roller coaster ride. For me, a great part of this band's charm is Cornelius's highly ironical, first-person stream of consciousness spoken word poetry. His lyrics may appear as silly nonsense to brutes, but there is much hidden significance behind the rhymes and recurring motifs. The stunningly masterful "CK II Chanel No 6", for instance, is a bitingly sarcastic, satirical examination of the high-paced, cutthroat, unforgiving world of haute couture. Underneath all the alliterations and personifications is a systematic critique of excessive materialism and the hostility and alienation that it breeds. And I thought metalheads couldn't write good lyrics… But it can be argued that Solefald have transcended heavy metal, so my hypothesis stands. As an aside, someone really needs to invite them to the Nuyorican Poets Café one day.

"Speed Increased to Scaffold"'s mellow beginning belies the black metal intensity that comes soon enough. Keyboard and guitars frolic in tandem before mimicking Lazare's vocal rhythm. Enter a bit of trip-hop, and Lazare softens to a whisper before finishing with some violent black metal. "A Motion Picture" is a short, benign keyboard instrumental piece, while "Omnipolis" is a curious piece sung in French. The singer sounds like an orator or an auctioneer here. "Backpacka Baba," quite simply, rules. Some of the best melodic jazz guitar work I've heard in a while, and lyrics to die for, this is Neonism's best song. "04.34 PM" is a beautiful, classically influenced piano piece with monodical vocal harmonizing. Perhaps not so coincidentally, composer John Cage's greatest (and most controversial) work is entitled "4'33", but I leave the reader to interpret the connection (if any) for themselves.

A number of people have complained that Solefald are overextending themselves with this work. I think that may be partly true, and I sense that a definite feeling of progression and forward movement is lacking, but by and large, Neonism is a successful sonic experiment, and they have many years to refine and perfect their craft. A half step away from greatness, they are.

Review by Jeffrey Shyu

Review date: 04/2000

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Pills Against The Ageless Ills

Solefald - Pills Against The Ageless Ills ©2001 Century Media
1. Hyperhuman
2. Pornographer Cain
3. Charge Of Total Affect
4. Hate Yourself
5. Fuck Talks
6. The Death Of Father
7. The USA Don't Exist
8. Anti-city Strategy
9. Hierach

Adventurous bands always seem to learn that eventually you have to rein in your indulgent tendencies and place the main focus on biting, to the point songwriting. Solefald is an excellent example of this with their latest, Pills Against the Ageless Ills. After exploring far too many tangents on 1999's interesting yet ultimately unsatisfying Neonism, Solefald has condensed into a considerably more potent outfit for this new effort. The sum total of the Pills experience is miles above the blur of Neonism and approaches the magnificence of the band's first release, The Linear Scaffold.

For Pills Against the Ageless Ills, the duo of Cornelius and Lazare have eliminated some of the more annoying elements of Neonism, most notably the screechy Dani Filth styled black metal shrieking. That alone makes these Pills less bitter to swallow. The second prominent change is a much more fluid songwriting approach that allows the songs to move in a much more intelligent and even catchy manner. Elements of black metal are mixed with a dark, brooding rock approach and end up meeting somewhere to the left of doom. The vocals are varied, as per usual with Solefald, and range from raspy black metal growling to barely uttered rantings to a melodic, gothy singing voice. The guitars are fantastic throughout this release, providing both crunchy, neo-thrashy bases and swirling and enveloping leads that provide a multidimensional feel to the music. Synthesizers swirl around as well, although more as an underscore to everything else. Most strikingly, songs such as "The USA Don't Exist" are downright catchy and contain powerful hooks.

With Pills Against the Ageless Ills, Solefald has truly found their bearings and should instantly appeal to fans of left field dark metal, such as Sigh, Diabolical Masquerade and other like-minded groups.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 10/2001

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