Sólstafir
Köld

I only recently discovered Iceland’s Sólstafir, a band that I wish I had gotten to know earlier. Their previous album, 2005’s Masterpiece Of Bitterness became one of my all time favorite records as the band seemed to blend post-rock with their blackened heavy metal heritage flawlessly for a truly mind-expanding experience; sharing a similarity to what Enslaved have done with their career (albeit musically somewhat different.)

Sólstafir’s newest album Köld (which was basically released a year ago) continues the formula with slight changes here and there. Their sound is taken further. What’s notable from the get-go is that there seems to be a new leaning towards ‘80s pop. And by that I don’t mean they’ve gone all Duran Duran, but the production has that nostalgic, open feel to it and the songs do contain elements I remember from the music videos I watched as a kid. While the band’s metalness might have shifted away from the spotlight of the stadiums, the mentality is still very much present within the songs and it’s safe to say that the band’s origin can be easily heard. Even so, with the evolution taking place and with Sólstafir’s black metal days further adrift, the band remains true to them, still sounding very much like Sólstafir.

The song material and presentation is once again interesting throughout. Ranging from quiet to loud, slow to fast, personal to universal; the whole spectrum is contained within the 70 minutes of music. And that number, 70, should be an indication that this isn’t for the fast-food inclined. The album and its music is intense, even at times when the organized chaos is subdued as is the case with the mid-point song “Necrologue” that reminds me of Nine Inch Nails’ more emotional and quiet anthems. But in general, Köld brings Finland’s post-rock pioneer Magyar Posse and, especially, their Kings of Time album to mind.

The influences the band has incorporated are plenty and each track seems to have its own set. It’s not just the music that helps to sell the mix; Aðalbjörn Tryggvason’s vocals are worthy of a mention alone as they too, do go through the whole mental spectrum, from screams to clean-sung moments where the rasp brings an overburdened emotion forth. The guy’s material would do justice to any Neurosis recording.

As perfect as I might make Köld seem, it’s not a flawless album. The aforementioned 70-minute length has its toll; not all the moments are as sharp as they could be and some trimming and adjusting might have given it a bit more of an impact dramatically. But it’s hard to hold that against the album, as when you’re open to its call, it will lure you in to its world. The album might not be as good as the one before, but quite frankly, I don’t care as this beast is somewhat different and thus defends its own existence. Especially when the band has achieved so much musically and this is just their third full-length.

While the ‘80s influenced post-rock, spiced with progressive ideas and most of all Ennio Morricone could be considered to be in connection with Iceland, its past and the awesome beauty the land holds, I think Köld points to the probability of the exact opposite.

The album paints an image of the desolate land, plagued by the ever-growing virus that is shortsighted industrialization; full of emptiness covered in metal, rust and dust. What once was a land of natural beauty, has now been assimilated by the mechanical touch of the humankind. There’s a craving of the old, better days, better ways. To me, this becomes apparent with the song “World Void of Souls”, where the listener sits around campfire and the narrator recollects the beauty in the midst of all the colorless, black and white days that blend seamlessly together.

On Köld, Sólfstafir pictures what lies tomorrow for Iceland, with its massive land altering projects, naive politicians and bankrupt economy of aluminum dreams; Köld becomes the Nordic Blade Runner. And I adore Blade Runner.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Mikko K.
February 2nd, 2010

Comments

  1. Commented by: Erik Thomas

    wow- the Saints will win the super bowl- hell hath frozen over, pigs are flying and a review from Apollyon!- things are looking up, now if Chris would write a review-id put money on the game…

    :)


  2. Commented by: bast

    Very good album. Necrologue is a great song!


  3. Commented by: gabaghoul

    great reveiw been meaning to check this out since you’ve been raving about it (I think I listened to it once last year but I can’t remember – will definitely pay more attention this time)


  4. Commented by: drowningincorn

    Holy shit is this album good! It’s one of those albums that is greater as a whole than each individual song. I don’t know how I’ve missed these guys but I’m definitely looking to get some of their older albums.


  5. Commented by: Apollyon

    If you like Köld, then the previous album will definitely blow your mind.


  6. Commented by: timshel

    It’s funny you got an ’80s pop vibe out of this album because when I first heard “Pale Rider” I thought the singer sounded like a viking metal version of Bono. He has that cooler-than-cool rock star presence…

    “If you meet me at the war tonight…

    One of us shall surely die/
    I don’t care, no I just don’t care/
    Either way I die tonight/
    So I don’t care/
    No I just don’t care”

    I’m not sure if Bono is even cool enough to pull off those lines.


  7. Commented by: Apollyon

    I was trying to figure out a good reference when I wrote the review and the 80s part, but the mind shot blank. But now that you mention it, I definitely should have mentioned U2 and Bono in some context. Good call!


  8. Commented by: Inside Bilderberg

    Great band, saw them live first time this summer and they were brilliant.


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