Hear the title track from Sólstafir’s forthcoming fifth album Ótta – it’s pretty damn good.
Icelandic musical collective Sólstafir have been on my radar since about 2010 when their 2009 release Kold caught my attention for its originality and fresh cold tone – but they have actually been around since 1995.
2011 saw the band break through in a big way with their sprawling, ambitious Svartir Sandar, a double album which took their existing sound and expanded on it immensely. From their beginnings as a black metal band they have evolved far beyond that into something stunningly gorgeous and breath-taking – more like an Icelandic folk-influenced post-metal exploration of fire and ice. Earlier this year, the band recorded their fifth full length album, titled Ótta, and yesterday they debuted a stream for the title track from the album.
Oh my lord, this song is absolutely wondrous. The song makes use of layers of strings, shimmering crunchy guitars, and an achingly beautiful banjo line that dominates the song, which wanders through the mix like a lone traveler on a path through the mountains. The band have never been shy about using interesting instrumentation, but this just takes that to a whole new level.
The image this song conjures is early morning, with the sun just touching the land, not yet strong enough to burn away the night’s chill, and just bright enough to light the way through the wilderness – fitting, given this is pretty much exactly what the band’s name means in Icelandic (“sólstafir” is their word for crepuscular rays). The vocals are laced with emotion, echoing through like a wraith or spirit calling out in wistful melancholy. Aðalbjörn Tryggvason is perhaps one of the finest vocalists in metal at the moment.
Sólstafir recently completed their first North American tour, playing a string of dates on the east coast, including the esteemed Maryland Deathfest. The fact that they did not come to the west coast made me sad, since this is a band I would truly and dearly love to experience live.
Ótta will be released on August 29th via Season Of Mist.