Sólstafir

Picture of Sólstafir

Köld

Sólstafir - Köld ©2009 Spikefarm
1. 78 Days in the Desert
2. Köld
3. Pale Rider
4. She Destroys Again 5. Necrologue
6. World Void of Souls
7. Love is the Devil (And I am in Love)
8. Goddess of the Ages

Sólstafir is an Icelandic outfit who, perhaps due to outgassing of volcanic vents on that geologically active island, have managed to cross epic metal with psychedelic influences and even a smidge of Fields of the Nephilim. Of course, it should be noted that whenever I see a band's promo photo where at least one member is wearing an old style cowboy hat, I immediately assume they're copying Carl McCoy (and that's probably based on a single promo photo of the one time he wore a hat, and quite possibly because it was raining that day). Sólstafir has been around for quite some time, but Köld is only the band's third full length album. With song lengths ranging generally in the eight to twelve minute mark, one naturally would assume it takes quite a bit of time to write such long, epic numbers.

The word "epic" shall be used liberally throughout this review. Sólstafir fortunately avoids the dark side of epic, which is extremely long songs that have poor structure, too much noodling or no sense of when to knock it off. Their version of epic has everything to do with building up to climaxes, drawing out a mood and simply presenting songs that require a longer duration to tell its musical story. The band has their roots in Viking black metal, but you can hear hints of that and even tinges of stoner rock, except with creativity. The production is a bit loosey-goosey at times, but there's plenty of big reverb on the guitars to make it sound like these guys are playing on top of a desolate desert mesa to an audience of coyotes. The album opener, the aptly titled "78 Days in the Desert", is fantastic instrumental that simply expands as it emerges from your speakers. The vocals aren't the greatest, but they do the trick. The voice is somewhat similar to the clean wailing you might hear on newer Primordial.

Köld is a rather good album with many excellent moments, but I get the feeling that the band is still finding their feet as they develop as musicians. This is the kind of album that keeps me hooked, despite being so long (and epic!). It'll be interesting to see what the next album brings as this one is quite satisfying.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 04/2010

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Svartir Sandar

Sólstafir - Svartir Sandar ©2011 Season of Mist
1. Ljós í Stormi
2. Fjara
3. Ţín Orđ
4. Sjúki Skugginn
5. Ćra
6. Kukl
7. Melrakkablús
8. Draumfari
9. Stinningskaldi
10. Stormfari
11. Svartir Sandar
12. Djákninn

Apparently looking to top the epic nature of their previous release (2009's Köld, Sólstafir has taken the time to create a two CD release (for those who still have an interest in plastic formats) called Svartir Sandar. This somewhat sprawling release finds the band moving into their own particular niche of music, one that is mournful, forlorn and completely not doom metal. Rather, the band explores creating melancholy, pensive music that still retains some of their earlier extreme metal influences but incorporates some post-rock tendencies, electronic music and a whole lot of "we're standing in the middle of an empty desert with lonesome coyotes". I also happen to find that ironic since this band comes from Iceland and you think they would be more about freezing rain and wayward volcanic activity.

Svartir Sandar's expansive nature makes it one of those records that may take a few listens to digest. To be honest, upon first listen I wasn't entirely moved by the record, but subsequent listening experiences help peel away some of the layers. Part of the issue might be the wailing vocals, which take some time (at least for me) to adapt to. That said, the singing ultimately fits the music as it projects some of the melancholy moods the band is evidentally trying to achieve. The other notable aspect is that some of the recording has been tightened up in production, keeping the reverb at "appropriately despondent" as opposed to "let's turn this up to ten and just wail away". The result is very strong dynamics and considerably better space for the instruments to work with one another. The more I listen to this album, the more I get out of it.

For those who liked the Köld, this is an absolute must to hear the band's progression towards their own very distinctive and impressive sound. They are one of the few bands that is forging their own identity and could only perhaps be compared to the likes of Primordial for what they're creating. It may take a few go arounds to digest this lengthy album, but it's entirely worth the effort.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 01/2012

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