SOLEFALD undoubtedly raised a few eyebrows when they declared that their latest release would be their attempt at being “true,” moving on from their past forays into genre-bending experimentation and releasing a proper Viking Metal album paying tribute to their pagan heritage. SOLEFALD playing Viking Metal?! “True” SOLEFALD?! I mean, what’s next, ARCTURUS doing Hip-Hop? Wait…
Anyway, the story goes something like this: masterminds Cornelius and Lazare won a songwriting grant, allowing them to travel to Iceland in order to gather inspiration and get some time away for writing and reflection. Apparently this was a fruitful process, as the boys churned out two albums worth of material (You might notice that this is “Part I;” “Black For Death: An Icelandic Odyssey, Part II” is set to drop next Spring). And not only did they write some great tunes, but Cornelius put together a pretty cool storyline, starring Bragi the Skald on his quest for total asskicking vengeance against some people that really screwed him over. There’re dwarves, too.
But, to get to the point…SOLEFALD playing Viking Metal? “True” Viking Metal? Well, yeah, but only sort of. See, people like Cornelius and Lazare are always going to be a little weird – case in point, the latest AGE OF SILENCE release, wherein Lazare’s lyrics form a concept about shopping. When they say “Viking Metal,” they really mean “SOLEFALD playing music that captures the Viking spirit.” Really, this doesn’t sound like Viking Metal proper, as played by bands like THYRFING or ENSIFERUM, but rather Avantgarde Metal, SOLEFALD style, with a whopping dose of epic atmosphere. You’ve got the varied song-structures, the saxophone, Lazare’s typically beautiful vocals complimenting Cornelius’ ever-varied approach – yes, this is definitely SOLEFALD.
That being said, this is nothing like any SOLEFALD album to date. The keyboards are for the most part replaced with a string section and the experiments in Techno and Reggae from past albums have been abandoned in favor of a strong Folk influence. Female vocals appear often throughout the album, dominating some sections entirely. “Red For Fire” is also the heaviest SOLEFALD album in some time, featuring a good number of what you might affectionately call “big stupid riffs.” Another note is Cornelius’ new vocal styles. He still uses his grumbly, gargly old man voice, but also breaks out rasps, growls, spoken word and even some bits that sound dangerously close to Hardcore/Metalcore vocals. Just listen to the beginning of “Survival Of The Outlaw” – I had a hard time believing this was SOLEFALD at all! With songs as strong as “Sun I Called” and “There Is Need,” however, I’m finding absolutely no reason to complain.
When it comes to established SOLEFALD fans, “Red For Fire” is an album that will satisfy some and disappoint others. To those who held the band in disdain before, having a hard time swallowing their somewhat –ahem- strange approach, you’ll definitely want to give this one a shot. SOLEFALD are once again a new beast and “Red For Fire” is one killer album. (Online January 21, 2006)