Solstafir
Endless Twilight of Codependent Love

Sometimes, timing is everything.

A song, an album, even a single melody, given the right circumstances or moment in time, can leave an indelible mark on your life. Nearly a year ago, such an album was added to a lifelong playlist of works that will forever hold a special place in my heart – Cattle Decapitation’s Death Atlas.

I remember the months leading up to the album’s release, waiting with increased anticipation as the band slowly released new singles – first the fantastic “One Day Closer to the End of the World,” followed by earworm “Bring Back the Plague,” and then, finally, title track “Death Atlas,” a song I believed to be their greatest work yet – and with it, my need to have the album in full was at a fever pitch.

On the morning of November 27th, two days before the album was set to drop, sitting at my work desk, I received a phone call that brought my world to a complete stop.

My dad, who had arrived the night before with the rest of my family for Thanksgiving, was dead.

I don’t think there’s anything that can ever prepare you for a moment like that. I know that I, personally, had always thought that I was going to know it was coming. I thought that I would be there at his side to say goodbye. I know now that’s probably a silly and unreasonable expectation, but the truth is, that doesn’t erase the shock or the guilt. The guilt of knowing I wasted my last chance to talk with him, just the two of us having a cigar outside my house, because I was in a piss-ass mood due to outside bullshit – that I couldn’t set those distractions aside and just enjoy my father’s company. The guilt of knowing that I was overwhelmed and irritable with my whole family’s arrival in my home. The guilt of knowing I should have been more attentive, more engaged, should have just enjoyed the moment more. The guilt of knowing that, before he slipped off to bed, I didn’t get to hug him one more time, to wish him a good night. The guilt of knowing that, at the time, I didn’t even think twice about it. The guilt of never considering he may never wake up again. Guilt that I still, and may always, live with.

Three days later, after making funeral arrangements and taking the first steps to figure out what was next for my mother, after three days of internal monologue and thoughts and feelings I couldn’t bring myself to get out and share with my loved ones, more than ever, I needed to escape. So I put on my snow gear, grabbed my headphones, and took my dog to a nearby field to run. It was there that I finally pressed play on Death Atlas for the first time, and for just an hour, my worries and pain, my guilt and self-loathing, they all took a back seat. That album gave me my first desperate reprieve from my darkest moments, and I’m forever grateful.

I suppose by now I should apologize for the fact that, this far in, I’ve managed only to talk about my personal bullshit, and an album that has, quite literally, nothing to do with Solstafir’s new album.

Sorry for that.

But if 2020 has done anything, it’s forced me, as I’m sure it has many of you, to do a lot more self-evaluating, to really take a much deeper look at yourself and become even more familiar with the demons that lie inside, and as I approach the one year anniversary of my father’s death, I find myself again feeling overwhelmingly introspective – a mindset that has opened the door for Endless Twilight of Codependent Love  to become yet another work that will be forever linked with a keystone point in my life.

Those familiar with the band know that Solstafir’s trademark has always been their ability to create a sweeping, evocative blend of black metal, post-rock and, in more recent works, more indie-leaning sounds that have an uncanny ability to feed upon the listener’s emotions – a feat made even more impressive by the fact that the band rarely strays from their native Icelandic tongue. They rely instead on emotive guitars and soaring atmospheres to carry the load, with the vocals – for us non-Icelandics – still very much conveying the raw intensity and feelings of singer/guitarist “Addi” Tryggvason nearly as effectively as if he were singing in English.

Endless Twilight sees Solstafir at a bit of a crossroads themselves. The band’s trend towards a more atmospheric, somber emphasis on their sound culminated with 2017’s least “metal-ish” album to date, the very moody and somewhat divisive Berdreyminn, an album that saw very little of the band’s more blackened roots. So is Endless Twilight “metal”? A mellow, melancholic beginning to opening track “Akkeri” certainly makes you think “perhaps not,” but about a minute and a half in, the band changes it’s tune and hits with one of the more driving riffs they’ve put to recording since their album Otta, and after a truly hypnotic melody, the band makes old and newer fans alike leap with joy as they barrel into a blackened, tremolo-picked black metal riff that will bring listeners back to their more heathenistic early days. After the band takes an atmospheric break from the action, they return with an epic second-half featuring more super-catchy, almost Down or Corrosion of Conformity-inspired melodies that sound really fucking good, and see out what is a fantastic start to this album.

And that’s not the end of the band’s return to more of its former self – “Dionysus” is filled with some of that chaotic energy that’s gone largely missing from the band’s sound since the Köld or Svartir Sandar years, and the end of final track, “Úlfur,” features a thick, heavy build that is honestly one of the finer moments the band has ever put together, and serves as a sort of giant crescendo to the album’s emotional rollercoaster. Again, I have no idea what the band is singing about, but the overall feeling of emotional outburst is just as palpable and cathartic.

But the band is still leaning heavily on a more post-rock tone throughout this one, wearing their homeland Sigur Rós influence proudly on their sleeves. Second track “Drýsill” carries one of the album’s prettier melodies, giving me a distinctly Alcest-like vibe, complete with some really nice, subtle synth overlays that add to the song’s intricately crafted atmosphere. Weirdly, “Alda Syndanna” breaks out a dirty grunge riff that, on paper, may seem out of place with the rest of what the band has going on here, but instead does a nice job of tapping into yet another of the album’s emotional markers – be it a high point or breaking point, I’ll leave up to you.

I won’t pretend that the album isn’t without some questionable moments. “Til Mordar” really lays the atmosphere on thick, reaching almost New Age territory that many of our readers I’m sure, won’t find terribly appealing. In and of itself it’s not a track you just throw on because you’re in the mood – it can only really exist within the context of this entire album. Then again, as a song to have in the background while in the middle of deep, existential thought, it does the trick very nicely. On the penultimate “Or,” they really play with some experimentation, starting the track with a classic blues progression over some Hammond organs, and ending with another of the band’s signature building crescendos. I actually like both halves of this song separate from one another, but together the fit is a little clunky and head-scratching.

I have to admit, were it not at the moment in time this album came into my life, my attachment to it might be less fervent. I’m comfortable enough to admit that I’m in a somewhat vulnerable state in my life, and as such I’m susceptible to letting my emotions carry me away a bit. But so what? Objectively, there’s plenty of scratches on the surface that probably keep this from becoming an even better record in a lot of people’s minds, but despite that, Solstafir have succeeded in creating another album that will certainly play on the listener’s emotions and have the potential to really tap into your innermost thoughts. Not to get even more “writer-y” than I already have in this review, but the album really succeeds if the listener is really willing to let themselves go, really submerse themselves into the experience of this record. I’ve still got plenty of hills to climb, plenty of shit to deal with both inside my head and out, but I can say without question that having this album in my life has, and I believe will continue to help me come to terms with it all, one melody, one track at a time. It’s a personal testament, and reminder of the power that music and art can have on your life. I don’t really know of a bigger recommendation I can give.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Steve K
December 2nd, 2020

Comments

  1. Commented by: J. Mays

    What a review, Steve. Catharsis is the reason why some of my favorite albums stay in my rotation. Some may call it madness to listen to something which can evoke such feelings and maybe they’re right. However, when I go to listen to those albums, if feeling down, the experience of screaming, singing, or simply nodding along aways makes me feel better after completing the listen.


  2. Commented by: Steve K

    Thanks, man! Yeah I understand people not wanting to bring up those kinds of thoughts and emotions, but I’m working on finding out how much better it is to confront and deal with them instead of just bottling it up. One day at a time!


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