Sólstafir - Svartir Sandar
Season Of Mist
Disc 1: 6 songs (40:49) Disc 2: 6 songs (38:56)
Release year: 2011
Season Of Mist
Reviewed by Jaime
Very few bands these days can be adequately described as "epic" without the word ringing completely hollow and the bastions of good taste retching into the nearest void that serves as a gateway to realms containing vikings and pirates sailing on seas of Jager while duelling each other with plastic swords. Sólstafir are one of these bands. The self proclaimed cowboy vikings ride again after 2009's monumental Köld with Svartir Sandar, which manages to maintain that groovy, trippy, otherworldly sense of its predecessor. But make no mistake, what little black metal in the band, if there was any in there to start with, has been disposed of with a lot more ambient experimentation and heavy doses of post-rock influence seeping through. There are still thunderous songs that the band do so well scattered about, much like the soaring 11-minute opener Ljós í Stormi that eventually bolts from the starting blocks after a long wind up of an intro, the massive and infectious Þín Orð and the unabashedly grand title track with its heavenly choirs the lift it to even greater heights.

There are also some that are a mix of the bands previous work and their newer, far spacier element. One is the ominous Sjúki Skugginn with its long, drawn out chords and harmonium (or accordion) in the background combining with the strained vocals to create something really harrowing and its following track Æra, with its borderline Muse-esque piano part jingling along its merry way as the rest of the band storm past. There is also the album’s highlight Fjara. Fjara is... something else. When I first heard it I thought it was more akin to a dark pop song with its soft vocals and the Rhodes piano driving and accenting parts of the track, and the poppy choir that bobs in and out just amplifies the sheer feeling and emotion that the band are trying to put across.

However, not all of the band’s experiments go that well. I could have done without some of the shorter tracks on the second CD, although Draumfari is obscenely groovy, and some of the longer ones fall into the post rock problem of doing fuck all interesting for half the song. Melrakkablús takes far long to build up to its chaotic climax of brass screeches and walls of guitars despite its odd energetic bursts; Djákninn has the unenviable task of following on from Svartir Sandar and it is a pretty basic song, sounding like a bog standard rock riff at times until about half way though. It’s just dull, and really they could have trimmed the fat and had this as a single disc release.

The production on this album is a bit looser than their previous album, for lack of a better term. It’s slightly rough and unpolished, but never abrasive and quite open and airy. The vocal delivery is notably different in my opinion. I’d say it was weaker than before, slightly scratchier and occasionally lacking the power that you could hear on Köld. The rest of the band sounds amazing however, with a nice balance between everything and that open sound lets everything breathe easily.

Ultimately there are more hits than misses here, with the first CD being almost untouchable. It’s not black metal, hell at times it’s hardly metal at all, but the band have delivered something that’s very much their own, and that cannot be praised enough.
Killing Songs :
Ljós í Stormi, Fjara, Þín Orð, Sjúki Skugginn, Æra, Draumfari, Svartir Sandar
Jaime quoted 81 / 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 - Kold reviewed by Charles and quoted 83 / 100
Sólstafir - Masterpiece Of Bitterness reviewed by Misha and quoted 80 / 100
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