'Neonism' - Solefald (6/10)
Norwegian metal duo Solefald's second album 'Neonism' was a massive change in style for this band. Although most typically associated with the black metal sound, Solefald can be heard really stretching out, taking influences from a wide array of styles and experimenting with how these widely contrasting sounds could be merged together as one. The album is still highly regarded by avant-garde metal afficionados, although hearing the music here, I do get the impression their ambitions outweighed their abilities.
'Neonism' has enough different angles, colours and tastes to it to make a rainbow feel bland. There are still some disparate black metal influences in the sound, but this songwriting is generally dense, melodic, and quirky, rather than atmospheric and dark. Solefald is clearly not interested in catering to the whims of a traditional black metal scene, there are vocal growls, howls, and rasps and even some riffs that are reminiscent of extreme metal sound, but you won't hear anything heavy here without it being followed up by something light-hearted. The clean vocals here are somewhat reminiscent of likeminded duo Vintersorg, although much more diverse. Here, a listener will hear both band members scream, croon, belt, and even pull off some spoken word sections. While listening to this, I am hearing a lot of very interesting ideas, but a large problem of 'Neonism's is that the ideas all seem to try to take the spotlight at once. The music feels dense, and almost as if there are two songs playing at once. This sense of disorientation in music can be done very well, but here it feels more haphazard than ingenious, and the thin production standard doe not help much either.
The lyrics here are another matter altogether. It's granted that one benefit of rampant experimentation is that one does not need to hold up to the same standards of more conventional bands, but it does not stop the fact that even after letting 'Neonism' sink in full, the lyrics feel awkward, jokey, and out-of-place. Solefald obviously attempts some sort of social critique here about consumerism and conformity, but it does not change the fact that rhymes here feel contrived and shallow, and- need I even mention- hearing the name Calvin Klein in a song, and then comparing him to a god sounds like the work of a prankster... or a genius, but I'm going to go with prankster.
'Neonism' does not seem to be an album that takes itself entirely seriously, and this has both positive and negative ramifications. It is an album that sees Solefald testing new ideas freely, but on the other hand, the convoluted nature of the album seems more like a fault than a mere matter of album depth.