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Solefald - Norrøn Livskunst - 40%

ConorFynes, April 21st, 2011

A collaboration between two guys who have had a fair amount of impact in the modern Norwegian black metal scene, Solefald has done some great things with their style in the past, throwing nuances into the typically harsh sound of black metal that aren't normally heard. 'Norrøn Livskunst' is Solefald's seventh album, and admittedly my first legitimate experience with the band. As a newcomer to the work of the band, I had only ever heard a few songs here and there, but even though I had little preconception of what Solefald's latest would sound like, I still find myself underwhelmed. Although the band shows remarkable promise with a folk-tinged progressive black metal sound, too often do their experiments go sour, sometimes even leading the music to be unpleasant to listen to.

'Song Til Stormen' opens the album off on a remarkable, albeit deceitful note. From the first wonderfully harmonized clean vocals and anthemic build-up of the music, I was instantly reminded of fellow progressive black metal duo Vintersorg. Although the band's approach here sounds almost too similar to Andreas Hedlund's Vintersorg, I still found myself greatly enjoying it; well composed and performed viking metal. As with most disappointing albums however, the first song here is the greatest, and also the only track I would recommend someone to listen to. From here on, the rest of 'Norrøn Livskunst' is a highly inconsistent roller coaster that often crashes and burns before lifting up again.

Many of the tracks here fall into the realm of fairly average, fairly enjoyable folkish viking metal, with some great vocal harmonies and occasional dives into female singing. It is ironic that my favourite aspect of this album- the vocals- are also part of what takes 'Norrøn Livskunst' from being a generally decent album into the territory of a record I would not be able to listen through again, despite the moments of grandeur. Chief among the errors Solefald made here was the invitation to bring the vocal stylings of fellow Norwegian rockers Animal Alpha into the mix. As can be heard at its most ear-cringing, 'Tittentattentetski' features some sort of vocal work (I dare not call it singing) in which a member of Animal Alpha sounds like a child screaming for ice cream moreso than anything music-related. Unfortunately, Solefald have their own bad moments here; the 'Blackabilly' song being worst of all; in which the band gears down to some of the worst lyrics I've heard in months; "One two three, blackabilly me. Four five six, burning kicks..."

Vocals aside, there is nothing to complain about, nor praise. Despite a few moments where Solefald cleverly incorporates some scarce jazzy saxphone phrases, things are kept fairly tame, and anyone who has heard some of the more modern melodic black metal from Norway should know what to expect; fast strumming of chords, tremolo picking and the occasional folkish moment. I cannot say 'Norrøn Livskunst' has impressed me by any measure regardless. The band is certainly capable, but due to a generally derivative sound and the fact that bands like Vintersorg have done this much better, Solefald does not sit well with me with this first impression.