"some music was meant to stay underground..."

Solstafir - "Svartir Sandar" (CD)

Solstafir - "Svartir Sandar" CD cover image

"Svartir Sandar" track listing:

Disc 1
1. Ljós í Stormi (11:35)
2. Fjara (6:39)
3. Þín Orð (6:20)
4. Sjúki Skugginn (5:07)
5. Æra (4:53)
6. Kukl (5:08)

Disc 2
1. Melrakkablús (9:58)
2. Draumfari (3:40)
3. Stinningskaldi (1:15)
4. Stormfari (3:37)
5. Svartir Sandar (8:21)
6. Djákninn (10:51)

Reviewed by on October 12, 2011

"A description like 'post-black metal' doesn’t even begin to do the album justice, as these songs are unique explorations into modern and genre-bending areas of metal that defy both the old school kvlt hangers-on and the newest trendy things."

The Icelandic heathens that make up Solstafir continue to push past the boundaries of their origins, hitting a serious landmark in sound on their fourth full-length album, “Svartir Sandar.” A description like “post-black metal” doesn’t even begin to do the album justice, as these songs are unique explorations into modern and genre-bending areas of metal that defy both the old school kvlt hangers-on and the newest trendy things.

Solstafir likes to play with its sounds, twisting and bending notes and taking them further than they might have originally gone. Trailing guitar chords, heavy on the reverb and with a serious echo, are the norm and the preferred way to blend into the next section of music. Even when the music is toned down and atmospheric, which it frequently is, any given listener would still be hard pressed to lose interest in these melancholy soundscapes.

Although obviously influenced by black metal of the ‘90s, “Svartir Sandar” has much more of a rock and roll base, albeit with an almost apocalyptic attitude. The vocals are hugely emotional, yelled out in a somewhat harsh way, but without actually becoming a death metal growl or black metal scream. The singing is delivered like an honest-to-Lucifer wail, full of lamentation and with an undercurrent of rage.

There are tracks that breach the 10 and 11 minute marks, and somehow the songs don’t overstay their welcome or repeat the same ideas into infinity. There’s an ambient, swirling sort of chaos to the sound, but “Svartir Sandar” isn’t one of those droning ambient albums that goes nowhere and has no structure. The second disc does get a bit more avant-garde and conceptual than the first half, which remains a solid slab of melancholic rock mixed with an angry metal vibe. The songs on the second disc tend to use more odd sound effects and head more toward the trippy and bizarre territory.

It’s hard to adequately describe what’s musically going on with “Svartir Sandar.” This description may muddy the waters even further, but the closest approximation would be if a heavily atmospheric and totally evil act like Abruptum somehow ended up writing music with a rock band like Bush. Basically it’s a slow motion aural apocalypse, and it’s simply awesome.

Highs: Almost everything - apocalyptic rock and roll blends into atmpsheric metal for an hour long ride that never gets boring.

Lows: A few segments on the second disc get a bit bizarre and may not work for everyone.

Bottom line: An ambient, rock and roll based take on post-black metal that masterfully blends together different sounds.

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)