February 6, 2013 by Beldrac
Sólstafir – Köld
Genre: Post Progressive Black Metal
If my understanding of Darwin’s theory of evolution is correct, the animals on the Galapagos islands developed their unique traits because they were isolated from the mainland and had to adapt to their own specific environment. This separation of species occurred not only from those on the mainland, but even among the islands in the Galapagos; where on the one island an iguana would have a flat tail to help it swim, on another its cousin would have the pointy tail that made it more adaptable to live and feed on dry land.
So, what does this have to do with Sólstafir (and many other Icelandic bands?) Well, Iceland is a pretty isolated place and Sólstafir is quite unlike most bands you’re likely to hear or at least, until someone tries to copy them. In a way (and I’m stretching the metaphor here,) the inter-island evolution of a species can also be applied to Sólstafir albums. There are some bands, few t.b.h, whose every album sounds unique and has its very own identity. “Masterpiece of Bitterness” is instantly recognizable for its harsher, colder edge – granted, possibly because I’ve listened to it a gagillion times, but the same goes for their debut and later two albums, “Köld” and “Svartir Sandar.”
“Köld,” which as you might expect loosely translates to “cold,” is – as common from most Icelandic bands – rather frigid but with a more warming tone. The album kicks off with an instrumental track called “78 Days in the Desert,” which despite its relatively long duration somehow just flies by. It sets the general tone for the album, lots of rhythm and time changes with a strong leading guitar backed up by some intricate drumming. The title track starts with a very slow pace but also speeds up and reaches an almost frantic rhythm a few minutes in, before slowing down again to that pensive mood Sólstafir do so damn well. It’s the only track off the album sung in their native Icelandic and about halfway through, an organ pays homage to a long past decade which had a big influence on the band’s Progressive sound.
“Pale Rider” sallies forth the more ghostly side of Sólstafir, especially in the vocals which take on a lingering and haunting tone. This goes some way in creating the atmosphere you can find yourself being drawn into. Much of this album is played in the shadows and the black and grey clouds persist through “She Destroys Again,” “Necrologue,” and “World Void of Souls” – the latter being a monologue accompanied by ambient sounds. A streak of light eventually cracks the gloom with “Love is the Devil (and I’m in love),” which is the catchiest song on the album. It is quite straight forward and simply put together, but the chorus tends to stick in your head for hours.
Sólstafir has kept with the traditional Black Metal-style of guitar playing for the more intense parts of the album, but without ever going through the sound barrier. This creates that Post-Black droning sound that I think is one of their main drawing cards. At times though my mind wanders down to the American South for some reason, (more…yet not…Skynyrd than Pantera) and I think it’s safe to say stylistically, they’re impossible to describe. This is a great album and if you’re into modern music that engages your mind and imagination in pale shades of black, grey, red, and blue, then “Köld” is for you.
Note on the video:
“This video was shot entirely using a manual 35mm slr camera.
It took me over a year, working on and off, to finish it.
There is no digital post processing, exept that the photos were combined and arranged in Final Cut. All effects are 100% manual and hand made.”