SÓLSTAFIR — Masterpiece Of Bitterness (review)

SÓLSTAFIR — Masterpiece Of Bitterness album cover Album · 2005 · Atmospheric Sludge Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
3.5/5 ·
avestin
Psychedelic brutality

Heavy, aggressive, raw, angry, dark, repetitive, hypnotic, mesmerizing, psychedelic. Bitter? All of these words can serve as good descriptions for the music that Solstafir plays on this album.

Sólstafir is an Icelandic band that was created in 1994 and went through several phases and demo, promo and EP releases up to the point of releasing their first full-length in 2002 and this one, their second, in 2005. Sólstafir provides a listening experience that's based on mood, power and "tripping out" with the music and not on technical playing, complexity or virtuosity. If you want to know more about the background of the band, you're welcome to read the bio I've written for them in their page in Prog Archives. Made up of 7 songs, mostly long, with the opener being almost 20 minutes, this album can be exhausting (in a good way) and one needs to be in a proper mood to absorb its entire 70 minutes. The length, however, doesn't mean the songs harbor diversity or are complex epics; rather it should tell you of their inclination to create lengthy metallic freakout. At times it sounds like long repetitive and endless jams. That is, they go on for quite a while in their hypnotic riffing (which can be either slow or fast), and thus create a particular mood that can serve as a good companion to chill out or float away with your thoughts; that is until Aðalbjörn Tryggvason, the vocalist, resumes his screams. The vocals are mostly harsh screaming which to me seem to fit the music quite well, although at times can be too much or out of place; they complete very well the feel of the music and add to the intensity level. The thing is that when they're jamming or more accurately in their trance mode, it can be a bit tedious and too long; but when they garner up speed and energy, it's fabulous. Their dynamic side is impossible for me to ignore or let go by unnoticed; it's too thrilling and catchy and makes me shake my head or legs. Add to that the heaviness of their music and it can be a crushing experience. The guitars come crumbling down on my ears unmercifully and raw sounding, enhanced by the aforementioned vocals and with the blasting drums, one gets an ear a "devastating" listening experience. There are songs like Ljósfari, which have a haunting catchy melodic peak (yes, melodic). Those are great moments in the album, though not found often enough in my opinion.

A Masterpiece Of Bitterness is an angry album; it's heavy and raw. It's a great album to let loose your energies with. It's powerful and can be almost hypnotic in the parts where they play those ongoing riffs continuously. It's an effective and well made metal release but not an outstanding one. I do enjoy listening to it but there are some flaws as I mentioned in the review that prevent me from enjoying it more, such as some over-repetitiveness. I also think they should introduce more variety into their songs; there are places where I feel they could have gone further on and develop the theme or idea more and make the song more interesting and thus even more compelling to listen to.

I'm intrigued to see whether the band's next album will be in a similar vein or will they progress from this point onwards.
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