Review

SÓLSTAFIR Ótta

Album · 2014 · Metal Related
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4.5/5 ·
voila_la_scorie
It was very sad news for me to read the other night that drummer Gudmundur Oli Pamason (spelled here without the Icelandic letters) had been kicked out of the band in January. He has written a long explanation of the recent events occurring between him and his former band mates on Wordpress. I got to know of Solstafir several years ago through Gudmundur’s mother who had become a friend of mine via a blog site and we maintain our friendship on Facebook. Gummi (as he is also known) is also a very talented photographer and artist and responsible for much of Solstafir’s artwork. He started the band 20 years ago with Addi (vocalist Adalbjorn Tryggvason) and poured his life’s energy into keeping the band going. I have exchanged some personal comments with him on Flickr about his photographs and he has left a few comments on mine. But more so, his mother and I continue to be good friends over the Internet, and so when I saw the link to the Wordpress site she posted, I was deeply saddened to read what it said.

Though I had known about Solstafir for a few years, I hesitated to buy an album. I was certain that extreme metal, sludge, post metal, and any kind of screamo / aggro metal was not for me. But thanks to my interest in progressive rock and metal, I came around to purchasing albums by Mastadon, Anathema, and Baroness and liked many of the songs. Then Gummi’s mom posted on Facebook about the band’s latest album, Otta, and the concept so intrigued me that I thought it was time to buy an album. For reasons that would make this preamble even longer were I too explain, my order was delayed and I only finally got the CD in the mail two weeks ago.

On my first listen, I was surprised at how slow and sedate some of the music was. There were many atmospheric moments with strings and piano or simple repeated notes or chords or guitar effects that made this music easy on the ears. I read some reviews of the album and listened again. Yes, there was definitely an atmosphere here, something like the bare B&W misty landscape scene in the CD booklet. There was cold, and loneliness, and there was solitude and isolation. Yet there was warmth and at times energy and power.

I listened again and again, finding each time that I liked the album more and more. Addi’s vocals are full of emotion and expression and not the screamo type or death growls that I thought I might hear. He can raise his voice to impassioned shouting when the music calls for it, but he can also squeeze emotion from his voice in tender places, too. I was and am reminded of Anathema at times and there’s a bit of similarity to Baroness here and there. But I am struck with the overall impression that this is a beautiful album and great for listening to when one is in the mood. Though not very technical or complex, the songs seem to have been crafted more with the focus being on casting a mood. The concept of “Otta” is eight songs, one for each of the eight three-hour time periods of the Old Norse day. My enjoyment of this album had me considering getting a hold of one or two other Solstafir albums and I still might do that, though perhaps this is Solstafir’s penultimate release.

I do hope things work out between Gummi and the rest of the band, even though the best result may be in Gummi getting a fair deal in royalties for his contributions to the band in his artwork and drumming and then moving on. It is such a pity to read this sad news after I only just finally got a Solstafir album home.
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