For those that have been following Horns Up from the beginning, you’ll probably recall a time when our Retrospectives were not blog posts, but rather segments on The Horns Up Podcast. If your memory is particularly exceptional, you’ll probably remember that one of the first albums I discussed came from Sólstafir. Back then, I reflected on Svartir sandar, which is the album that had first sparked my interest in the Icelandic post-metallers. This time around, however, I’d like to look back a little further with their preceding album, Köld.
As a side note, I recently had the hard copy version of this album shipped my way, and since it only just arrived today, I’m going to take this opportunity to focus on it the way it deserves. Köld came out in 2009, two years before the memorable Svartir sandar and five years before one of 2014’s best albums across any genre in Ótta. (When you look at those three albums in a snapshot, these guys have been on some kind of run the past decade or so.) While the most recent two albums are probably the most popular in their discography and feature some of the most recognizable song titles (“Fjara”, “Ljós í stormi”, and “Lágnætti”, to name a few), Köld is still arguably their most emotional album to date.
All told, Köld is a dark, depressing listen filled with pain and longing. No tracks on here reflect that personality better than “Pale Rider” and “She Destroys Again,” which have differing paces, but carry a similar burden. It’s this varied cadence throughout that makes Köld so powerful. For example, “Love is the Devil (and I am in Love)” is the most intense track, but it falls immediately after the entirely spoken—borderline silent at times—“World Void of Souls.” The sequencing keeps things incredibly listenable despite the burden the album brings. Köld holds this feeling of sorrow from “78 Days in the Desert” right through to the finish. It can make for a trying listen at times, especially at 70-plus minutes, but it’s also incredibly impressive.
I have to talk about the way vocalist Addi Tryggvason experiments with lyrical repetition and spoken words from time to time. It’s a style not frequented on any other recent Sólstafir work, and really drives home the somber weight of the album. Furthermore, even though he sings in English, the Icelandic accent really gives these words and phrases more depth. You hear the pain of loss in his voice and then physically feel it because of the instrumentation. Guðmundur Óli Pálmason continues his extremely recognizable hollow gallop on drums while the rest of the rhythms and bass emphasize and provide weight to the ambiance of the leads, especially on the likes of “Necrologue.” Sólstafir has long been a band that challenges a listener to focus on each note and word on a second-by-second basis to truly grasp the meaning behind the music. I’m not sure if they have an album that speaks to this design better.
Anyway, that’s enough rambling out of me. I invite you all to listen to one of the more challenging albums in Sólstafir’s library and allow yourselves to be taken to a far darker place for the next 70 minutes. Musically, it’s worth it in every sense. There are plenty of reasons why I’ve become so hooked on these guys, and this is just one of them…
“Ein Bier… bitte.”