From my understanding, the tracks and album title take their name from an Icelandic form of dividing up the day/clock into 3-hour increments. Ótta is the 3am start. Knowing this helped me grasp the feel of the album a little more. With Ótta, Sólstafir has extended their departure from metal that was fairly evident on their previous album Svartir Sandar (and even somewhat on Köld).

Without their emphasis on creating a movement within their sound and an atmosphere almost wholly their own, this surely could have been misconstrued as a misstep for these Icelanders. Thankfully they’ve created a fantastic album full of canyons of despair, upbeat storms of hope, and brilliant passages of melancholy that fully defines them as a band. Those following Sólstafir since their inception wouldn’t be able to say that this album is out of place. Their progression from black metal to this form of ambient/atmospheric “rock” is neither a surprise nor a shock and what they are doing now is wholly their own sound. With this, their fourth proper full length, Sólstafir has created an album that is equal parts ambition, history, and experimentation. It is an album that works as a track-by-track listen and is at its best when heard as such.

The tracks on this album are fully realized movements unto themselves that can certainly fit into their respective 3-hour timeframes that they are named after. “Lagnætti” is a fast paced, piano & drum driven piece that starts out with a somber start from the piano & vocals. Haunting guitars bleed in and out of the song as if they were weeping children heard down the vacant halls of a forgotten orphanage. It’s a powerful opener that certainly sets the tone for the rest of the album. Ótta carries over the haunted string from the previous track but with a slower pace. A tired banjo slightly picks up the pace along with some distorted guitar that when combined add some weight and groove as they alternate with the vocals. That pace is sparse, though, which helps continue the mournful tone. I sense some guitar tones and effects that are not dissimilar to Sigur Rós and certainly used to gain the same effect. “Rismál” is the next track and it certainly picks up the pace a little more but never to the point of aggression. It seems to be a precursor for the next three tracks, “Dagmál” , “Miðdegi”, and “Non”. The latter is actually probably the most “rock” based song on the whole album. “Miðdegi” almost reeks of Strokes territory if the vocals weren’t so aggressive.

The interplay between the bass and the drums (high hats and all) isn’t out of place in that comparison but vocals are the closest to “yelling” that are attained on the album. It’s a very upbeat song that really stands out in this rather melancholic listen. Non follows suit with the aforementioned track in being another “aggressive” piece but again is broken down to a subdued form after the pace has been established. In this interplay of upbeat tempos and quiet moments, both forms seem to infect the other without compromising the dominate pace. It’s a very interesting piece that, again, stands out from the established sound that the previous songs have laid the groundwork for.

“Miðaftann” and “Náttmál” close out the album and couldn’t be in contrast anymore than they are without compromising the integrity of the album. They are both songs that define the album with the former being a sorrowful piano and strings piece while the latter is slightly upbeat. Again, those guitar sounds that are reminiscent of Sigur Rós show up here with some “doomier” aspects though. Clocking in at 11 minutes, this is the longest track on the album. It is the perfect ending to a rather glorious album that wouldn’t be out of place on anyone’s year end lists. Sólstafir has created a wonderful listen that certainly stands out among the plethora of great albums this year. I strongly suggest this album and advise headphones to grasp the full effect.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Chris S
November 7th, 2014


  1. Commented by: Luke_22

    This is my first experience with the band and while it’s not a heavy album in the traditional sense, it’s a very well written, emotive and powerful album. Good write-up.

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