The Norwegians of SOLEFALD have been around in the Metal industry for a pretty long time releasing some critically acclaimed albums like “Neonism” or “The Linear Scaffold”. I myself have turned my attention towards the band just after they have created the first part of their Norse heritage-inspired saga under the title “Red For Fire”. Its follow up – “Black For Death” – appeared only one year after and both pieces were released with the same sub-title, namely “An Icelandic Odyssey”.
This double effort is a concept album that recounts a story of a medieval Icelandic skald called Bragi, who gets entangled in an intrigue on the royal court and has to take flight to a place far away from his home. With the help of the powers above he manages to wreak his vengeance, although there is no room here for a typical American “happy end”. In this brief way we can describe the history written by Cornelius Jakhelln. When he was creating this opus together with Lars Nedland, they announced that these albums would be true Nordic Viking Metal records. As regards the lyrics everything is ok, but somebody may ask if one really can describe “Icelandic Odyssey” as Viking Metal from the musical point of view. Do Norwegians of SOLEFALD represent here the same genre as for instance THYRFING, MOONSORROW, ENSIFERUM or EINHERJER? In my opinion absolutely yes. These musicians are so to say re-defining the notion of Viking Metal genre. This kind of music is namely not only guitars, drunken choirs and folk instruments, but first of all the texts that create this unique “Viking atmosphere”. SOLEFALD are aware of the fact that the scene is being gradually flooded with mediocre bands offering repetitive stuff and thus they strive for refreshing the Viking formula by incorporating influences from such music corners as Jazz or Classical music, which from the traditional perspective is eminently not Viking (actually that should not come as any surprise considering the fact that the group’s music has for a long time been labelled as Avant-garde/Post Black Metal).
I have to admit that it might take some time to fully get the sense of the stuff on both of these albums – the melodies are not infrequently unusual and even a bit complicated. The already mentioned non-Metal influences contribute to a somewhat longer process of acquiring this release and at the same time make it sound very sophisticated and mature. On the other hand it feels that such remarkable compositions as “Sun I Call”, “Survival Of The Outlaw” or “Crater Of The Valkyries” should draw the listeners’ attention already the first time after having pushed the “play” button on CD player. All the way through the band are doing their best in order to make their art engaging, diverse, yet coherent at the same time. Thus one can for instance experience numerous tempo changes here as well as many various musical moods featuring raw Black Metal riffs, delicate Classical strings or elegant saxophone sequences. The vocals vary a lot and apart from harsh and clean singing there is even a number of spoken parts here.
The company of some very interesting guest-performers makes SOLEFALD’s stuff even more attractive. Aggie Peterson enchants with her beautiful voice in “White Frost Queen” and in the remixed version of this song recorded for the second part of “An Icelandic Odyssey” we have Kristoffer Rygg (known here and there, this time appearing as Trickster G.) who contributes with some vocal lines. Garm’s guest performance is indeed worth attention. The band is also helped by their acquaintance fiddler Sareeta of RAM-ZET and ÁSMEGIN. Moreover, some excerpts from the “Poetic Edda” are being read in – as the band says – the language of gods, that is Icelandic, by Jörmundur Ingi who is a former leader of a pagan organization on the geyser island.
Unconventional compositions as well as great approach towards the Norse beliefs and culture makes SOLEFALD’s album an unusual one against the background of other Viking productions. It might happen that it will not seem to be so appealing for fans of more straightforward playing filled with sing-along choruses; so might be the case even with the fans of lengthy opuses in the vein of for example BATHORY, at least at first sight. Still though it is worth to give SOLEFALD a chance and convince oneself, that one can spin out tales of Vikings and their life also in a bit different way. “Red For Fire” (as well as “Black For Death”) is one of the finest examples of Metal music inspired by the heritage of Nordic medieval societies and a work to check for everybody who feels attracted to Viking themes in music.
(Online July 28, 2009)