Nice little EP.
Human beings are strange lifeforms. Wherever they flourish, be it the fiery desert depths of the Sahara, the wet and tropical Indonesia or even the cold and freezing glaciers of Greenland, the human race always managed to prove robust and adaptive to their surroundings, developing their own cultural traits as they live out their lives. Iceland is a very exotic example of mighty Viking descendants (at least the types who pussied out before reaching Greenland or Newfoundland), who have a quite unknown and interesting culture. SÓLSTAFIR is one of those bands, which is not so popular in the Heavy Metal scene, not even in Europe. This little EP would eventually mark their sound and ensure their place amongst innovative and diverse Heavy Metal.
The EP's unique flavour is not found within the overall technical execution, because by superficial standards, the music here is nothing special. Taking a closer look however, reveals the true "spirit" of this little gem. Although it resembles very atmospheric, yet raw black metal at times (early PRIMORDIAL come to mind), it is still different. Take for instance, the chanting intro on the first song; shivering a cappella chanting. It has a very Nordic feeling to it, but unlike the typical Norwegian or Swedish languages from Scandinavia, Icelandic is not so widely spread in Heavy Metal, and hence gives the clean vocal parts a very unique spice. The songs contain some really nice and slow atmosphere interludes, which make them sound less monotonous. Drums sound "jumpy" at times, if you listen to the title track "Til Valhaller", you will know what I mean.
Lyrics are completely in Icelandic as far as I can tell, and the title most surely means "to Valhalla". Of course we've heard that a thousand times from bands with viking themes such as BATHORY and ENSLAVED, but SÓLSTAFIR's pagan interpretation deserves no less praise. They have been around for quite a while now and have moved on to more atmospheric Rock. This EP however continues the Pagan Metal tradition, started roughly in 88' with BATHORY's legendary "Blood Fire Death" album. The production is fuzzy and at times sloppy, but that's why it's so great. Vocals consist of guttural screams, which are mostly not rasped but, well, screamed. All instruments are good audible, which is not something you take for granted on many albums, even up to date.
So, if you enjoy a good sloppy Black/Pagan Metal release with few flaws, this is the EP for you. The artwork alone is attractive enough. For collectors, of course, this is a must have. Especially if you look at the band's development from a retrospective, you will begin to appreciate this fine work of art and aggression.
(Online August 21, 2009)