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There're a striking differences between the first Sólstafir's full-length and the further releases. I was pleasantly surprised by "Í Blóði og Anda", probably, because at first I listened to the following albums. And I can announce with the 100 % confidence that the debut album of this icelandic band is not less great than for example next called "Masterpiece Of Bitterness". For me their first is one the most favourite black metal album ever and I don't understand why many people have a dislike for "Í Blóði og Anda". Maybe, it occurs, because many fans have already got accustomed to the soft sound like on "Köld" and don't want to apprehend the early works of Sólstafir. But this fact doesn't matter me much and I will continue to admire this alluring release further.
I can't call the sound on "Í Blóði og Anda" really raw; it is some kinda distorted, but tolerable and I listened to it with the biggest pleasure, because the music there is perfect. Drum work here is done very correct, so I can't mark out any flawless (the same as on the other albums). The melodies here are extremely beautiful; they will stick in your mind for a long time. Every song has its own theme and there are no tracks which I can name as less beautiful, all of the songs are absolutely astonishing. So, if you want to relax, listening to something heavy, "Í Blóði og Anda" is the best what I can counsel.
The special sound here is mostly imparted by the strange guitar sounding and I even don't know, how to describe it (sometimes it bear a strong resemblance for me to rock'n'roll, and sometimes it can sound like pagan black with some acoustic insets). But what I know exactly that it will not leave you indifferent. Drums I also cannot call same to the big abundance of bands. In most cases they sound fast, but without blastbeats, what's amazing for such music. Vocals are really mad, Tryggvason bawls literally on the every track. But that fact makes "Í Blóði og Anda" even more beautiful, original and authentic.
To my mind, it has no sense to describe the songs by turns. It's much better to sit and listen to this regular masterpiece from Sólstafir. Yes, it is the best way to understand and then to fall in love with this outstanding music.
Icelandic progressive black metal band Sólstafir are a superb band with a stylish sound, or at least they have become a superb band. Especially in regards to ‘Masterpiece Of Bitterness’ as Sólstafir really pushed on from this effort which, although decent, isn’t a patch on the second opus from the Icelandic innovators. ‘Í Blóði og Anda’ is where the journey began, bringing this cold Icelandic blend of progressive black metal with Viking touches to the shore of Britain, which isn’t exactly the hottest place of Earth (thank God, I hate heat). In the beginning, this band initially started out as a black metal band with Viking touches. To me, both black metal and the sub-genre of Viking metal are closely related., sharing similar traits. This effort from Sólstafir isn’t in any way a standard form of black metal, in fact it deviates as much as humanly possible away from the traditions of the genre (bar perhaps a few) and adds a touch of splendor and style to proceedings with an innovative look into the future of the genre.
As black metal gains more exposure, musicians are likely take the levels of experimentation higher and higher and this is exactly what Sólstafir aim to do with both their records, in this case, ‘Í Blóði og Anda’ which incorporates themes from other genres and sub-genres and mould them around this epic genre that can sometimes lack in style and creativity. Icelandic black metal, or metal in general isn’t flourishing. The metal genre is only made to feel at home by a handful of Icelandic bands, so acts like this have the potential to inspire many Icelanders to create their own music given the proper exposure. Its amazing to think that Sólstafir are actually quite popular because of their disadvantages in terms of demographics. Surely there must be some semblance of a scene in Iceland and one imagines that bands like Sólstafir are penetrating it with their peculiarity and style. Potentially, bands like this have the chance to build upon something like the debut and create the most influential sound the country of Iceland has ever heard, in a metal sense, of course. A number of elements of this record be could perceived as rather odd, like the fact that bass is audible, the vocal style is vastly different from what we, as black metal fans, are used to hearing. Song structures are a little odd too, Sólstafir focusing on short songs at the beginning of the piece and then more of lengthier songs towards the end culminating in a song which spans over ten minutes long. There is a feeling that the songs could be tied together more smoothly and that the Icelanders could make the transition from bleak harsh moments to the sublime beauty of the piano on ‘Ei Við Munum Iðrast’ more professionally and maturely.
The instrumentation is a lot more clean than I expected, with the production doing a fantastic job of forcing the soundscapes to become far more accessible than they should be. The juices are flowing, the adrenaline is pumping and the innovation has begun. This creation, much like when the light bulb was invented (hyperbolic, ladies and gentlemen) has caused a stir in the underground world, causing many people to sit up and take notice of the unusual and unique way in which the band approaches the subject of black metal. Originally, the origins of black metal have limited bands in the way they approach the genre, excommunicating itself from experimentation like it is some sort of social outcast within society or that it has done something morally wrong. Sólstafir aim to establish the connections between black metal and experimentation once again. I hear you ask how exactly. Well, as the first three songs, which are all very notable in their own ways indicates, Sólstafir are looking to use avant-gardé instrumentation and even an unusual vocal style to portray their lyrical themes. Unfortunately, all the lyrics are in Icelandic. I could translate them, but I feel that would ruin the mystery behind the record, so I won’t be doing that any time soon. Lyrics aren’t overly important to bands like these that focus more on dealing with conceptual and abstract music than a more physical approach. Songs like ‘Ei Við Munum Iðrast’ clearly indicate the brilliance of the Icelanders as they use clean instrumentation against the backdrop of distortion and harsh vocals that display varied and contrasting emotions.
As stated, the first three songs in particular indicate to spectacular degrees what Sólstafir are all about. Take ‘The Underworld Song’ as an example. The intricate use of bass is far from being a typical trait of black metal records. In actual fact, the bass is often mistreated by the distorted dominance and vocal style, which can overpower the emotiveness of the bass, but not in this case. The bass doses us up with a nice batch of negative emotions. Oddly, the bass is more repetitive than the guitars, which actually take on an overly experimental sound. There are occasions when the instrumentation isn’t sewed together as tightly as I would like with solos flying in from every direction on songs like ‘Tormentor’. The vocals, which are weird themselves, are screams not rasps which immediately took me off guard. I don’t consider them to be any more impacting in contrast to rasps, so their inclusion is partially mystifying. The vocals do add a new dimension to the aggressive soundscapes, so I suppose that’s something. The drums are particularly progressionist, focusing on varied patterns which are helped out by the solid musicianship from each and every member of the band. Good use of double bass, although blast beats, which normally calls black metal their love child, are sparsely used but when they are, they work side by side with the repetitious nature of the bass and guitars to create an overly aggressive, yet sublime feel to the soundscapes. With the transformation that the band made from this effort to the next, it will be interesting to see where they go on ‘Köld’, the next effort, which should be released next January.