Solefald - Neonism
Avantgarde Music
Avant-Garde Progressive Metal
10 songs (50:11)
Release year: 1999
Solefald, Avantgarde Music
Reviewed by Goat
Archive review

Travelling onwards along their unique musical path, Norwegian duo Solefald’s second full-length is in many ways as good as the fantastic debut. Neonism moves away somewhat from Black Metal and towards the progressive, without loosening the band’s grip on the Avant-Garde, and the result is a very fine album indeed. Conceptually, it’s even more radical, referencing popular culture and globalisation with complex and cryptic lyrics that use Gaia throwing up in a public toilet as just one memorable metaphor. There’s still quite a Black Metal soul beating at the heart of the band – as well as the frequent blastbeats, ‘we rest on day seven – on day eight, we blast heaven’ as one line says – yet this has been combined with Solefald’s modern and cynical political outlook to make for an album that was little short of despised when it came out. Looking back, over ten years later, it’s little short of a masterpiece, artistic and intellectual yet enjoyable and easy to engage with, complex and avant-garde yet with discernable song structures, a fantastic follow-up to the still underrated The Linear Scaffold.

One quick and easy comparison is to Arcturus’ wilder moments, especially in the opening burst of Fluorescent (The Total Orchestra) which sounds almost like it could fit on The Sham Mirrors. Crazed drumming, dense atmospheric keyboards and dual harsh/light vocals blast straight for you, slowing and speeding in deceptively random ways, taking you on a real rollercoaster ride. It’s worth emphasising just how much Neonism is based on keyboards, using them ahead of guitars to create melodies and give orchestral flourishes to virtually every second of the album – the deliberately raw production helps to obscure the instrumentation and make it all blend together in a wonderfully powerful way. Guitars are a big part of the sound, too, of course, as is bass and vocals, but there’s no denying the emphasis on keyboards, and Solefald use them perfectly. Neonism is the sort of album that everyone will have their own favourite highlights to – picking them out is easy, explaining why they are so great to someone that hasn’t heard them is very hard indeed.

I’m tempted to just say it’s genius and leave it at that - Speed Increased To Scaffold starts like King Crimson warming up before launching into orchestral darkness, speedy French rapping and techno beats moving to slow, majestic intensity and switching to proggy complexity. All eight minutes of the track are enjoyable and intricate, and nothing feels out of place or forced. The melodic choruses of CK II Chanel No.6 contrast with the tumultuously violent keyboards of Proprietors Of Red wonderfully, and the nonsensical vocal ramblings of the latter track are as delightful and interesting as the catchy riffing soon after. Lazare and Cornelius are excellent musicians, multi-instrumental and capable vocalists, and they certainly put their talents to good use throughout. Whether it’s the melody of Omnipolis, the quirky prog of Third Person Plural or the complex and catchy Backpacka Baba, Solefald are never less than fascinating in the soundscapes they create, and Neonism is an album that will find its way to your playlist again and again. Genius? Definitely.

Killing Songs :
All, especially Speed Increased To Scaffold, CK II Chanel No. 6, Proprietors Of Red, Backpacka Baba, Third Person Plural, The New Timelessness
Goat quoted 93 / 100
Other albums by Solefald that we have reviewed:
Solefald - World Metal – Kosmopolis Sud reviewed by Goat and quoted 85 / 100
Solefald - Norrøn Livskunst reviewed by Goat and quoted 91 / 100
Solefald - The Linear Scaffold reviewed by Goat and quoted CLASSIC
Solefald - Black For Death: An Icelandic Odyssey Pt. II reviewed by Andrew and quoted 74 / 100
Solefald - Red for Fire: An Icelandic Odyssey Part I reviewed by Adam and quoted 82 / 100
To see all 7 reviews click here
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