SOLSTAFIR – SVARTIR SANDAR

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The thing with Sundays is that they tend to go over in a blur. Yesterday was the first Advent Sunday and what better way to celebrate it but by contemplating with antichrist Heavy Metal in the background? I might be a day late but lets get this tradition running this year!
It’s time to forget everything and to attend to the needs of the new. The new Sólstafir album, “Svartir Sandar”. Black Sands. The English translation of the title might ring a bell with some of you. Yeah, that’s right! DJ Bonobo released an album last year with that title, I haven’t gotten around to check it out but I’m sure that with a title like that it must rock people’s hats off!
Sólstafir have come a long way since their humble beginnings in the primal Black Metal chaos! Their first releases are legends, spoken only by men of wisdom that have spent time in the trenches of Extreme Metal Music! They made serious international waves with the release of “Til Valhallar”, in 1997, Iceland’s first real Heathen Metal export, which was released through the Czech label View Beyond.
Things went quiet until 2002 when the band suddenly resurfaced with “Í Blóði og Anda” through the now-defunct German label Ars Metalli. The wheels started turning and three releases saw the light in as many years before “Masterpiece of Bitterness” was released through Spikefarm Records in Finland. Sólstafir were now on a path they have followed since, adding branches on the bonfire with each release. Two albums later the band has switched labels once again and is now on Season of Mist.
“Svartir Sandar” is not an easy album to lump in a genre of any sorts. It doesn’t matter if you go Metal or Indie, it’s just as hard, if not impossible. The band goes wherever the music leads them and the atmosphere is very relaxed. Listening to the album you feel like you’ve walked into a jam session more than anything else, where the tones flow and nirvana is the goal.
I mentioned a path earlier that the band has been following for many years now. Some may argue that the path is much longer than I would like to make it but there is really no need to argue, we are all at the same point, by the sign, watching the “you are here” arrow, and walking towards the Devil’s church. For me the path is laced with the vices of goth rock and endless deserts. Those deserts have spread through the years, spread all over to the mountains of rock and roll, where the bubbles “pop!” instead of bursting. You can feel it right when “Ljós í stormi” begins, the epic waves hitting you. From “Fjara” to “Djákninn” there is never a dull moment. As slow and relaxed as things might become at times I dare say there’s never a dull moment. Things never become boring or predictable.
This album has a song for every day and every variation of weather, and the highlights fit the time and the place and the weather.

PART II:
Last night when typing this review I completely forgot to talk about the packaging and this review isn’t really a full review until I’ve talked a bit about the packaging (repetition).
It was a cold day when I made my way down to Bad Taste Records in the middle of Reykjavik. The store is inside a green square that sits inside an old building. I picked up both the CD (deluxe edition) and the LP (regular pussyblack edition) and just managed to make it back into the car before the rain completely drenched me. The vinyl is still unopened in my flat but the cd lies open next to the DVD player I use to listen to CD’s.
There is a painting for every song done by Kim Holm and if you click THIS LINK you should be able to see this and judge by yourself. The paintings manage to capture the atmosphere of the songs and add another layer to them that magnifies the experience of the listener. It’s great seeing bands putting effort into their releases and in the age we live in, where digital downloads are a rule, not an exception, it’s great putting that extra something there that gives the buyer a bit more than the Blogspot user.

http://www.season-of-mist.com/

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