Review Summary: No, this isn't Black Metal. It's one of the best albums of 2011.4 of 4 thought this review was well written
Okay, let's get something set straight. Svartir Sandar
is not a Black Metal album. If you walk into this album wanting to hear a new Black Metal release, prepare to be sorely disappointed. What Sólstafir have released is a not-very-small LP filled to the brim with Shoegaze, Post-Rock, Atmospheric Sludge Metal and some hints of Progressive and Alternative Rock. Despite borrowing from some seriously overdone genres (at least at the time of release), there's something about this album that's unique without really inventing anything different. Simply put, they have drawn from their influences well enough to create music that sounds
like they aren't blatant rip-offs of contemporary artists.
Although this release is broken up into two disks because of its size, it should be noted that there aren't really any major differences between the disks. Aside from some noticeable variance in the use of repetition in the first disk and more tremolo picking in the second, there isn't much to differentiate the two. In a way, that's a good thing; two faces of the same coin
has been done over and over and over again by too many artists in this "field" of metal/rock/alternative, and it's a breath of fresh air to listen to double-disk LP that gives you subtle changes throughout rather than dramatic theme changes. If you like pretentiousness in your music, it's probably a good idea to not listen to this LP.
As far as overall sound goes, the loud/soft dynamics are still there but they've taken a step back. Although there's certainly some sludgy moments here and there, the heaviness has been cranked way back in favor of a more organic atmosphere. As a whole, Svartir Sandar
isn't about creating an overbearing atmosphere that envelops you in bleakness. This album is far more subtle than that. In the midst of some 5/4 chord strumming, various instruments and sounds will fade in an out as Aðalbjörn Tryggvason lays down some impressively varied vocals. While it may come off as minimalism at first, subsequent listens will please you with many previously unheard sounds that help build a murky, yet lightened atmosphere.
This album is undoubtedly going to be compared to more recent atmospheric metal releases, particularly with the multitude of Blackgaze LP's popping up. Such comparisons would be invalid, though, because the atmosphere of this album isn't so polarized. Nowhere do Sólstafir push hard to sound like the next Alcest
, nor do they try to paint a bleak, Neurosis-infused picture with their music either. This is more reserved. That isn't to say that those more specific themes are necessarily bad, but the lack of any particular niche makes this LP far more accessible which ultimately makes it a far better listen.
Rather than listing a track-by-track breakdown or giving recommended songs, I'd rather users experience this album for themselves. It's not going to change any lives, but it's definitely one of the better and more accessible releases of 2011. Give it a spin.