Solefald - Norrøn Livskunst
Indie Recordings
Avant-Garde, Progressive Metal
10 songs (54:04)
Release year: 2010
Solefald, Indie Recordings
Reviewed by Goat
Album of the month

It seems incredible that Solefald are still going in 2010, fifteen years after Cornelius Jakhelin and Lars Nedland formed their artistic duo that has led to such memorable albums as The Linear Scaffold and Neonism, let alone their diverse output in the 00s. I’ve always appreciated the band’s ability to change yet remain essentially the same, experimenting freely yet never losing sight of what it is that makes Solefald a name to be respected, and it’s no real surprise that Norrøn Livskunst continues in this vein by being an absolutely bloody marvellous experience. As gleefully schizophrenic as ever, there’s a real vein of melody running throughout that shows the duo are as good at writing songs as they are in letting avant-garde madness run amok. Vocal layering, careful usage of keyboards, saxophones and distinctly bonkers guest spots all work together to ensure that Solefald are as listenable yet distinctive as ever.

So, how to describe it? Taking a pinch of the folk influence from their last two albums, a big dollop of their mid-period progginess and a sprinkling of their early ‘red music with black edging’, Norrøn Livskunst is a masterly summation of the band’s career so far as well as a great place to dive in if you’re new. Roughly translating to ‘the Norse art of living’, there’s a real cohesiveness to the album that makes it a genuinely satisfying listen, a journey back in time. The press release talks about how in the early 1900s Norway underwent a mini cultural revolution, with even architecture taking a medieval style and sports clubs being named after Norse deities, and with the band’s usual witty tongue-in-cheek, they describe the album as ‘black metal and rock, eighties pop and jingle, seriousness and humour in perfect union...’

Hard to argue with that! Song Til Stormen begins the album in style, layered vocal lines over melancholic instrumentation giving the track a folky feel that’s built on with female vocals and gently progressive instrumental complexity, layer upon layer before it collapses to near ambience beneath spoken word. It’s an arresting opener to the album, not least because for such an unpredictable band Solefald play it fairly straightforward here. Thrill-seekers need not worry, as the blastbeats soon arrive with Hugferdi, an up-tempo piece that switches the gentleness of before for harshness, black metal growls and dancing guitar lines soon joined by subtle industrial clanging and even more vocal layers. It’s the first time here that the metal elements of the band are let loose to play, and there’s some impressively technical bass jangling in the background, behind the surprisingly catchy guitar riffage – both Cornelius and Lazare are very talented musicians, as they prove repeatedly here.

Tittentattenteksti will most likely get the most ire from haters of the band, featuring guest vocals from the suitably crazy-sounding Agnete Kjølsrud who readers will remember from her guest spot on recent Dimmu Borgir single Gateways. Here, her deranged scat-singing is faced off with Cornelius’ growls amidst a rather lovely goth-metal-gone-mad galloper of a track, and it sounds rather good in these infinitely less sane surroundings, so if her presence on the Dimmu put you off rest assured the effect is very different here. Of course, placed in context with the rest of the album it isn’t really a standout – from Stridsljod / Blackabilly’s folksy jam that builds into frantic blasting and grunts to Eukalyptustreet’s laid-back jazzy meandering, the band delight in wrongfooting the listener. And as ever, it’s as delightful for us to experience said wrongfooting as it was for them to create it.

I’m struggling to think of criticisms for this album, but none come. The thrashy opening to Raudedauden fills a nice gap, as does the guitar solo from guest Vangelis Labrakis (Mencea) and the following Vitets Vidd I Verdi returns to vocal layering as melodic keyboard-heavy heaven once again envelopes Solefald and gives rise to the catchiest moment on the album, not to mention a glorious false ending. Raging blackness returns in the symphonic title track, which verges close to Enslaved’s territory and throws in everything from wah-pedal to war metal, whilst Waves To Valhalla gifts a Cronian-esque bit of prog metal in conclusion to the Icelandic Odyssey duo. You can dip in anywhere and be assured of the band’s usual genius shining brightly.

Yet ultimately, it’s not until you truly give yourself over to a Solefald album and allow it to dominate your ears that you realise how much you’ve missed the band, how much time has passed and how much other crap your ears have been fed in the meantime. Few other metal bands come close to the Norwegian duo’s trademark of avant-garde chaos brought into post-black boundaries, and none so ineffably articulate music as art. A Solefald album isn’t just for Christmas, it’s for life; something you can listen to at any time and discover new facets of this remarkable band’s sound. Not just is Norrøn Livskunst another solid addition to the Solefald catalogue, but it’s a serious contender for my end-of-year list and a worthy reminder of all the wonderful reasons that I still listen to metal - intelligence, artistry, professionalism, and the promise of a good time. You can sum all this up with a single word, indeed, sum the entire review up with just one word that will mean everything to fans and nothing to the uninitiated. That word, my friends, is Solefald.

MySpace
Killing Songs :
Hugferdi, Tittentattenteksti , Stridsljod / Blackabilly, Eukalyptustreet, Vitets Vidd I Verdi, Norrøn Livskunst
Goat quoted 91 / 100
Other albums by Solefald that we have reviewed:
Solefald - World Metal – Kosmopolis Sud reviewed by Goat and quoted 85 / 100
Solefald - Neonism reviewed by Goat and quoted 93 / 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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