Written by: EW on 25/03/2009 10:25:08

Coming out of leftfield (well Iceland actually) is Sólstafir, largely unbeknownst to me and with their third album in tow after nigh on 15 years of existence, "Köld". A glance at their genre(s) on Metal Archives succinctly puts them as "Viking/Black Metal (old), Psychedelic Rock/Post-Hardcore (later)" and with a Myspace-page list of influences ranging from Immortal and Autopsy through to The Doors and The Beatles, I realised I was going to have my work cut out in getting my head around this one. It is at the end of a number of listens though I look back at my notes to see half the song's have been blessed with the word 'brilliant' next to it, so maybe my work won't be so hard at all...

Falling somewhere in the oceanic-sized crater that would describe those influences, "Köld" doesn't so much as hit you but casually strolls in to your world, bristling with wistful exuberance and the kind of flirtation across numerous genres one would only expect from a band hailing from such a remote outpost of the world. "Love Is The Devil (And I Am In Love)", the most upbeat track on the album and the separator of "Köld"'s two 10 minute epics, has a real hedonistic vibe, being the song recalling The Doors, The Cult and the likes with a classic rock feel and drink-swigging bravado. "Pale Rider" is another adorned with 'brilliant' in my notes. Avid readers will know of my passion for Nachtmystium's "Assassins" LP last year and "Pale Rider" here features the same rhythmic feel and impassioned lead riffs of the American's psychedelic black metal, accompanied by a fantastic vocal performance by Aðalbjörn Tryggvason. For sheer emotion and humane passion he is rivalled only by one Alan Averill ('Nemtheanga', Primordial) and is the individual highlight of an album where no instrument stands out; merely working together in the creation of an epic, melancholic vibe not unlike latter Katatonia (though it must be said far less miserable than the depressive Swedes). Concluding track, “Goddess Of The Ages" recalls Cult Of Luna and Neurosis, feeling like a trawl through the collective psyche of Sólstafir as the leading guitar threads and drones away in to different arenas, painting a picture of intense magnitude with wonderful scope, far beyond the capabilities of what most bands have to offer.

"Köld" will take up 70 minutes of your life when digested in one listen, and I recommend you do so. Given such a diversity of songs on offer alongside the progressions within the likes of "78 Days In The Desert" and the title-track the time flies so fast you'll have the need to repeat at least the last three songs like I incessantly do. "Köld" is an album to be treasured; most bands head for the safety of a pre-defined style, often aiming for a 'new' or 'old' sound. Many bands are acutely aware of this and aim for a somewhere-in-the-middle sound, yet produce albums that sound confused and tired. With "Köld" Sólstafir have missed every trap and the end result is an album that will be enjoyable for time to come and is going to be a serious contender for the end of year prizes through some good ol' inventiveness and musical imagination.

Download: Goddess Of The Ages, Pale Rider, Köld, Love Is The Devil (And I Am In Love)
For The Fans Of: Nachtmystium, Cult Of Luna, Agalloch, Primordial
Listen: Myspace
Buy: iTunes

Release date: 21.01.09
Spikefarm Records

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