Is it just me, or does it seem to you as if there’s something strange in the air in Iceland? Something that burrows into the souls of her musicians and lays eggs there, so that when an icelandic musician first sits down at an instrument, their brain doesn’t approach it in quite the same way. Why else is it that this country continues to produce some of the most sonically-haunting and artistically-challenging music in the world?
Sólstafir describe themselves as “atmospheric rock n’ roll”, although the label does scant justice to their euphoric style. With Ótta, their fifth full-length album, they four-piece have created something utterly magical.
Ótta is, quite simply, stunning. It is one of those albums that sends a shiver down your spine. The album’s concept is based around an old Icelandic method for time-keeping – called the Eykt (one-eighth of a solar day). The album’s eight tracks begin with a representation of midnight, then build throughout the day, coming to conclusion in the hours between 9pm and midnight. Like a day, the album begins with a slow rise, uncoiling into the fully-awakensd sunlight. As the world around awakes and breathes, the music builds, becoming a great heaving tempest, before falling away again into quiet, easy stillness.
Aðalbjörn Tryggvason’s vocals mesmerise you with their wavering delicacy, while the rest of the band builds a moody image from a assortment of instruments, always pulling away when required, and building and layering for depth and warmth. You don’t really listen to this album. It sort of just … washes over you, like the ocean lapping against the shore on a windy day, pulling you out to sea. From violins to banjos, screaming guitars to sultry piano, Sólstafir journey through all the emotion of a lifetime within their single day.
Standout tracks are the title track, “Ótta.”, and “Dagmal”, which I might go on record as saying is one of my favourite pieces of music, ever.
If you are in to post-metal or just love your Icelandic musical mayhem, then pick up Ótta. You shall not be disappointed.
The Sunken, my dark fantasy novel, is now available on Amazon.
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