Review Summary: If you don’t like a little black metal tongue in your cheek, then you might want to keep your mouth shut.
How much do you have to piss someone off before they start sending you death threats? In the age of the internet, it probably doesn’t take much. If you include the fact that the people making the threats were a group of fun-seekers known as black metal fans, it’s easy to assume that it was probably just something for them to do before they ate their Count Chocula in the morning. Regardless of motive, Solefald’s first album prompted these sunny individuals to start making death threats from their evil tree-forts and gave rise to the band’s self-proclaimed genre: red music with black edges. The description was just supposed to be an amusing way to convince these pasty-faced individuals to find something else to threaten, but it ended up sticking. In hindsight, it turns out that ‘red music with black edges’ is the perfect way to describe the bands continually evolving blend of black metal and whatever-the-hell-else.
It’s no exaggeration to state that over the course of Solefald’s previous six albums they’ve crammed enough random ideas and genres into their black metal foundation that a whole other write-up would be required to hit them all. Suffice it to say that with an ‘anything goes’ attitude some of their ideas have really worked and some have failed miserably. Solefald’s latest album, Norron Livskunst
, actually takes a step away from the extreme eccentricity of their previous albums by including a bit of what worked from every previous release and delivering it in a relatively streamlined black metal package. It picks up where the Icelandic Odyssey
albums left off by including a bit of subtle folk and focusing on Norway’s past, but eliminates the tedious spoken-word poetic passages. In addition, they’ve taken the Norwegian heritage angle one step further by presenting a majority of the lyrics in an archaic form of Norwegian, called Høgnorsk. With all of the talk of Norwegian folk and streamlined black metal, some may be concerned that the band has lost the eclectic edge that has endeared them to fans, but they have not.
features the proggy melodies and densely layered vocals of In Harmonia Universali
, but in a much more developed form. In fact, Lar’s vocal arrangements are easily some of the most sophisticated and layered of any Solefald album; featuring deep growls, black metal shieks and both male and female singing. They’ve also restored a bit of the black&roll of Pills Against The Ageless Ills
, but with more of an emphasis on the black metal part of that pairing. This rock element will often sneak into a song as a fast black metal-style melody slowly transitions towards a groovy riff that is fully-formed before anyone ever realizes the change took place. The biggest point of contention for the average metal listener will be the fact that the band has completely re-embraced the warped, ‘black metal can be fun’ attitude of Neonism
. This attitude manifests itself in every song as random tongue-in-cheek elements will flash to the forefront – such as the scatting by guest vocalist Agnete Kjølsrud on “Tittentattenteksti” or the electronica with cowbell of “Vitets Vidd I Verdi”. It also manifests itself in more subtle ways, such as an overtly poppy backing vocal over the main black metal rasp or a dark tremolo-picked lead that suddenly shifts into something stolen from a carnival song.
can still be described as ‘red music with black edges,’ but the black edges are definitely more prominent than ever before. This consistent black metal foundation works perfectly, though, as the band delve into any idea that has ever worked for them while keeping things fresh and interesting. In fact, Norron Livskunst
is a totally comprehensive album that effortlessly encompasses Solefald’s entire history by using their good ideas, ignoring the elements that have never really worked, and delivering a collection of their strongest material to date. It’s a career-defining album that should thrill any current fan of the band and frustrate anybody that wants their metal totally serious.