Review Summary: Forging a path to greatness.
Bands like Sólstafir are few and far between these days. In an environment where the status quo is conditioned into giving people a quick dopamine release while they’re cleaning the house or commuting to work on a bus or train; in a world where pop artists release bewilderingly long albums filled with worthless filler, solely to attain optimum revenue from streams rather than releasing projects with a meaningful vision; or artists putting more effort into one or two digestible three-minute tracks and their music videos than focusing on entire projects. Without trying to sound pretentious, cynical or hyperbolic here, the impetus of these trends has almost certainly brought the “album experience” onto its knees – the urgency of a concept that simply asks you to stop for a moment and breath in its beautiful world. A world which was carefully crafted by people pouring their hearts and souls into it for the sake of the art itself and not for material gain. Indeed, these Icelandic visionaries are in that minority; a demographic that wishes for you to embody their works, not to callously consume them impassively on a soulless playlist while you’re focusing on other things.
With such a philosophy at hand, you can bet your ass when Sólstafir makes an album it isn’t going to be a bogging microwave meal that’s ready in six minutes and gorged on indifferently in three. To this day, I frequently listen to Berdreyminn
and greatly appreciate its vast density and complex interwovenness. Hell, my initial opinion of Berdreyminn
at the time wasn’t shy of adulation, but it has since grown to be my favourite album from them – its artwork encapsulates the swampy sonic tranquillity being omitted from within, and to me, Berdreyminn
openly rewards repeated visits. It is, in the broadest sense, an experience: the gift that keeps on giving. And so, three years removed from that album and Endless Twilight of Codependent Love
evolves from its last milestone with unbridled gusto. It is an intricately composed, labyrinthian peregrination: a lush, poignant tale with palpable substance and emotion attached to it. The production is dynamic, seamlessly writhing through pastures of the past with a heightened ableness that capitalises on ideas that didn’t necessarily flourish the first time around, but certainly land here. In a lot of ways, Endless Twilight…
is acutely aware of the band’s past, and throws in lashings of black metal into the disparately pieced together epic “Akkeri”, or the icy, fussed-out tremolo assault that opens up “Dionysus”. The album maturely integrates old ideas with the more apparent movie-soundtrack direction they’ve been taking in recent years, and it only serves to elevate the compositions here.
One of the fundamental selling points to a modern Sólstafir, post-rock opus is the aesthetic. These guys are pioneers in that regard and every album feels like a completely different tale. Where Ótta
felt like an ice-chilled walk down an isolated beach, and Berdreyminn
an uninhabited adventure through damp swamps and forests, Endless Twilight…
feels like a forsaken, celestial voyage into the void. Tracks have long stretches filled with harmonised guitar solos and acquiescent synthetic swells that form the ethereal paths you’ll float down. The melancholy is dialled to the max when compared to previous albums as well, and for good reason. Just when you think Sólstafir can’t get any more ambitious, they make a concerted effort to pull no punches in the instrumental department. Aðalbjörn ‘Addi’ Tryggvason’s unforgivingly agonising moans partner up with some really lavish instrumentation this time around, and the results are spellbinding. The ballads and symphonic epics in particular really benefit the most from this. From “Rökkur”’s grieving symphony and its chiming electronics, to the soulful jazz ballad “Ör” and its funky rhythm, chattering guitar effects and vibrant piano and banjo noodling. The strengths of Endless Twilight…
come into full fruition when the album pulls out the ballad-centric numbers, but it isn’t shy to pull out hard-hitting punk riffs and galloping grooves with goth-tinged synths at intermittent moments of a track either.
Overall, the balance of style and mood is incredibly well handled. In truth though, I have to admit that out of the aforementioned albums – which I consider to be a trilogy at this point, considering the core ideas of mood-making are symbiotically connected – I do feel like this is the weaker one in tone and doesn’t quite hit home as hard as the previous two. That said, however, I overruled Berdreyminn
at the time and look where we are now. Ultimately, the take away from this review is perseverance; like their other albums, this is a long album (just a couple of minutes over an hour in length, if you exclude the bonus tracks) and it isn’t one you can just chop up and listen to in segments. This is a sonic banquet – a feast that is meant to be savoured for a long time to come. There’s a few stilted transitions dotted throughout the album – when it comes to moving in or out of the serene sections of a song, mostly – and the overall aesthetic, while very well forged, doesn’t feel as tangible or as exciting to listen to as Berdreyminn
’s (as of this review, that is). In a year or so, who knows? What I can say is this: based on its own merits, this is one hell of an album and an easy contender for best post-rock album of 2020.
Sólstafir have been carving out a formidable reputation for themselves this past decade, and the quality of their albums just seems to have plateaued at absolute greatness. Sólstafir continues to be torchbearers of the “album experience”, from the calculated artwork which sets the mood, right down to the magnificent music itself. Like a lot of the epic-journey albums before it (Yes’ Closer to the Edge
, or Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon
, for example), Endless Twilight…
requires time set aside solely to listen to it. If you can adhere to that, Endless Twilight…
will guarantee you safe passage into a gorgeous, living, breathing world that will take you away from the abhorrent mess of 2020. And that's a fair deal in my eyes.
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