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Genre defying beauty - 85%

damaramou, September 1st, 2006

Solstafir, if you haven't heard of them before then allow me to fill you in. There a little known (but gaining popularity all the time) metal outfit from the nether reaches of europe, Iceland. They've always been somewhat difficult to peg down exactly, in the past they've been described as black metal, and the tag viking usually sticks to them due to there lyrical content, but these are the only labels that you can really pin on these guys, if you wanna pin labels at all. On this release solstafir combine so many different influences and musical elements that they leave the genre labellers crying into the milk of there mother's hairy teats.

The songs are dynamic, they flow perfectly, switching from laid back drum beats and expansive riffing, to more aggressive high speed patterns and guitar work, all executed beautifully. The riffs during the slower sections are just fucking huge, massive, epic even! They really take you places, like most bands that employ this kind of slow spacey riffing style, it conjures images of landscapes, rolling hills, that kinda thing. Chords and riffs slowly progress from one another, backed up by some pretty dynamic drumming, in fact it's the drums during these sections that really push the music forward and give it pace, the riffs drape and ebb around them, accompanied by some excellent and entirely audible bass work.

So you've getting the idea that the music is pretty progressive yeah? Well your on the right the track, but there's a lot more going on here. There are some seriously strong stoner rock and sludge influences throughout all the riffs, and this isn't a combination you hear too often with tremolo picked black metal style riffs, it's makes a pretty unique and interesting listen. Intense riffing breaks down into sludgy stoned riffs, and yes, there are some almost psychedelic moments in between.

But of course these guys still retain some of there black metal roots, there's a fair amount of high speed riffing and blasting, and the slow sections obviously help to accentuate these quite considerably. Of course there are lots of high speed dm and bm bands out there, and those guy's are obviously much faster than the music you'll find on display here, but when solstafir really pour it on after they've been building you up for a good few minutes, you'll be pinned your seat. Alot of the songs follow the build up and explode pattern, but there are a few straight forward tracks, blood soaked velvet being the most bm like out all of the tracks as it maintains a mid to high speed for most of its duration, with some very nice blasting sections and frenetic guitar work.

Aðalbjörn Tryggvason (vocals) maintains a sludgy yelling style for the most part, kinda like a gruff shout with a bit of gravel, there's also the occasional scream or two, but the vocal work in general is quite intelligible and more aggressive than abrasive. A melancholic, and at times grim atmosphere permeates most of the album, but it's not that one dimensional at all, there are some really uplifting, almost victorious moments that leave you feeling just grand, like Helgarth von axe wielder after a day of debauched maiden saving, culminating in a five day mead binge with the king of england. The lyrics seem to deal with personal issue's, self destructive tendencies, drug addiction, that kind of thing, and as you can guess from the album title, there quite bitter. The vocals are quite understandable if get your extra powerful listening ear out, or just listen closely, whatever works.

Of course no album is without it's flaws, this one just doesn't have that many. Due to the lengthy nature of some of the songs, the slower sections can drag a little bit at times, I Myself the Visionary Head being the most blatant example of this, but this doesn't detract from the album as long as you've got a bit of patience.