Sólstafir is one of those bands that doesn’t really need an introduction. What started out as an underground black metal band from Iceland became a worldwide phenomenon that conquered many hearts, even the hearts of those who don’t consider themselves to be trve kvlt. The atmospheric Fjara from the 2011 Svartir Sandar album is well known within the alternative music scene and is one fine example of their recent musical approach; atmospheric progressive rock drenched in melancholy. It sure is difficult to categorise Sólstafir. The band’s success has only been growing since they turned into another musical direction, their latest masterpiece Ótta witnesses of a band at the top of its game.
This, of course, brings forth expectations for future productions. New drummer, new album, will Sólstafir meet these expectations with Berdreyminn? Well, at first I must say that I wasn’t convinced at all and thought they made an extremely boring album. After a couple of listens I must admit that the Icelandic cowboys actually delivered a pretty decent album. Different from what they’re used to, yes, but beautifully unique in its own way.
The otherworldly intro to the opening song Silfur-Refur, which takes about two minutes, takes you to desolate places with its country-like guitar riff and organ melodies. According to me, the artwork by Adam Burke perfectly reflects this song’s atmosphere. The track bursts out into a nice rocking and up-tempo song, characterised by singer Aðalbjörn Tryggvason‘s trademark emotional vocals. Track number two, Ísafold, is without a doubt the oddest track on the entire album. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, on the contrary, it’s a very interesting song. Ísafold opens with new wave-like synths and gets strengthened by a lonely, simplistic guitar riff. It’s one of those songs that I disliked at first listen. After a couple of listens I must say that the song holds a great atmosphere and gets a fuller and fuller sound towards the ending.
Next up is Hula. Hula allows you to catch your breath with its sober piano melodies and slow pace. The choirs in this one are truly epic. After Hula you’ll get a wake-up call with Nárós. Harsh vocals and a gentle guitar make this a haunting track. This feel gets continued in track number five, Hvit Sæng. A new element Sólstafir added here is the western-like piano intro. The piano continues and you’ll get to hear Addi‘s sofer side. After the piano intro, the electric guitars and distortion take over. I doubt if it was really necessary to add the rest of the song since it’s rather boring and feels very different from the intro.
Track number six, Dýrafjörður, must be one of the strongest compositions on Berdreyminn. It’s just so bleak and melancholic that it gets beautiful. Even though the vocals are a bit off, they perfectly fit the fragile piano melody. Ambátt enters your ears like a soft whisper. The sound get fuller and fuller and I could not help but smile towards the end. The song’s climax feels like a typical Sólstafir song; raw, estranging and comforting. Berdreyminn closes with Blafjáll, which might be the liveliest song on the album. You can even hear some metal during the verse. This must be the song that’s got the most in common with Sólstafir as we knew them. Great track, but it would’ve been better if it came a bit earlier…
All in all: good album, but not as good as what we were used to from Sólstafir. They’re turning again into a new musical direction: more accessible, easy listening and less metal. Berdreyminn will attract a larger audience and I don’t think that this will be a favourite of the bulk of the Sólstafir fans. The melodies are often too repetitive and some power is clearly missing. Apart from this, Sólstafir managed to create some hauntingly beautiful melodies and their rawness is inimitable. There’s a feel to Berdreyminn that’s truly unique. They don’t stick to the same recipe and that certainly is a good thing. The album has to grow on you, but make sure to give it a chance. Blafjáll might be a good track to start with. You’ll thank me later.
Release date: May 26th, 2017
Record Label: Season of Mist
1. Silfur – Refur
5. Hvit Sæng