Sólstafir - Kold
Spikefarm Records
Prog Metal
8 songs (01:10:35)
Release year: 2009
Spikefarm Records
Reviewed by Charles
The first I heard of Iceland’s Solstafir was their EP of 2002, Black Death, a devastatingly, earshreddingly raw three tracks of breathless punkish black metal, with the occasional brief (20 second) digression into moments of rocky melody that could only just be made out in between blasts of icy malice. I was aware of their reputation as an experimental and eclectic band before this, and as such was a little surprised at how wonderfully primitive it was.

All of this changes radically, however, once we get to their more recent album output. It’s fair to say they have followed a career trajectory comparable to that of Enslaved in recent years, embracing much gentler manifestations of metal and a clear post-rock and prog influence. Their principle modus operandi now seems to be based around lengthy expanses of slowly shifting sound, with melodic ideas encroaching like waves that never really take hold. Unlike bands such as Enslaved, rather than concentrating on perfecting a metal/prog hybrid, they have branched out to welcome influences from well outside the scene in the realms of indie and beyond.

Kold is probably a step up from its predecessor, 2005’s Masterpiece of Bitterness, perhaps not surprisingly given the gap between them. The sound is weightier and more powerful, better serving the tones they are going for. They are generally content to fall back on these long passages, which can work extremely nicely as on opener 78 Days in the Desert with its urgent rolling undercurrents, but it is always a worry with this type of music that you will be left feeling restless. Thankfully, then, for the most part they sensibly aim for setting different moods and using very different ideas on each track, and retain the capacity to surprise. What really sticks out on each listen about four tracks in is the uncanny vocal resemblance to Cedric Bixler Zavala on She Destroys Again. The song manages to do a remarkably good job of sounding like At the Drive In gone post-rock, with some riotous metal drumming thrown in for good measure. Another standout is the eerie Necrologue, in which the vocals appear to have transformed into Josh Homme, floating in that distinctively moaning style over a powerfully understated funereal plod. Multi-layered guitar harmonies are allowed to take over at times, giving an effect that is quite powerful. The mood reminds me of Neurosis, a band they were compared to when Masterpiece... was reviewed on this site by Misha. Also worth noting is the creepy spoken narration on World Void of Souls, that could fit on the last Manes record, with twangy guitars in the background reminiscent of Earth’s latest.

Such is the nature of this album, evoking a great range of different ideas, all conveyed intelligently and subtly but without losing emotional power.

Killing Songs :
She Destroys Again, Necrologue
Charles quoted 83 / 100
Other albums by Sólstafir that we have reviewed:
Sólstafir - Berdreyminn reviewed by Alex and quoted 88 / 100
Sólstafir - Ótta reviewed by Jared and quoted 78 / 100
Sólstafir - Í Blóði og Anda (reissue) reviewed by Jared and quoted 72 / 100
Sólstafir - Svartir Sandar reviewed by Jaime and quoted 81 / 100
Sólstafir - Masterpiece Of Bitterness reviewed by Misha and quoted 80 / 100
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