In some former life I was a Viking. I do not assert this in the manner of many; my beard is but the product of laziness, my odor not from cured leather and mead, I only slake my lust for blood in a manner most fictional. But in my most secret heart of hearts, I long to roam wintry sullen landscapes, exercising my aerobic capacity in the service of some medieval lord. The sea has always held my unadulterated attention, and the romanticism of Norse gods and mythology has always outshone the bland and mild ideas of Christianity.
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Admittedly, my thirst for high fidelity audio equipment, quality fantasy, and epic graphical landscapes penned by digital artists cannot be quenched in such a time period. Nor do I agree with the ethics of slaughtering the innocent and reaving; I wouldn't be long for the Viking world. So I live vicariously through the fiction and sounds of those who present an idyllic vision of an era long past.
When myth and magic and music unite in one sultry offering, I can only thank whatever powers be that someone, or sometwo, youthful fellows were able to pen a vision such as this that I might revel in, frolicking amidst the bloodshed and pirouetting in the iced landscapes of the long-dead reavers of snow.
Solefald has not been known for this sort of music before; indeed, they are not known for any sort of music especially. The group, if it is to be called that, is composed of two musical soulbuddies, Cornelius and Lazare. Their aesthetically pleasing hair arrangements are not the only facets that recommend them - their eclectic sense of style and music organization lend to bizarre sonicscapes that are capricious, yet cohesive. Little difference do I see in this particular work, dubbed "Red For Fire: An Icelandic Odyssey, Part One." Its successor is to be named "Black For Death," and assuming yon fellows show as much regard for the number system as they do common musical method, it will be numerically the 734th part of the Odyssey.
I will not betray their magnificent storytelling nor attempt to paraphrase with my piddling phrases; merely abjure you to make do with your monies as I have done and review their work for yourself.
What, indeed, is the firmament that the compositions of Lazare and Cornelius reside upon? What blessed and hallow ground provides the foundation for their epic?
Somehow, the very tone and timbre of their music paints a picture both ice-fragile and fire-hardened simultaneously. The zephyrs of a saxophone float through the air like wind through a hamlet, and the dulcet tones of cellos warm the air like a roaring bonfire. Offsetting these sombre and quiet tones are Cornelius and Lazare's grating voices, providing a musical discord as to the scraping of metal across ice. As if their musical tapestry wasn't woven deeply enough, lush and rhythmic sonicscapes of drummery and tremolo-picked guitar pattern an aural quilt embroidered by an airy female voice. Forsooth, one could sink forever into such a volume of music.
Much of their compositions seem based on the idea of contrast; the music would not be interesting with merely the pounding rhythms, and the melody of the cello, saxophone, and heavenly singing would fail to intrigue for long without its discordant offset. For me, complicated pieces such as this are a delicacy and a delight; much to my chagrin, I often weary of more straightforward metal. The poison often loses its potency after a few listenings, but the more complex and discordant the work, the more enriching the listening experience. Indeed, one day I shall carry out a grand experiment - fortifying my cattle with the primal timbre of Solefald's music and seeing if the dairy produced is high in vitamin content.
If one is truly interested in applying the Pigeonhole Principle to a domain far outside that of number theory, you could categorize Solefald as being avant-garde post-black metal. Really, though, once you start throwing around words such as 'post-genre' and 'avant-garde' and 'experimental' anything goes. You could record, in highest fidelity, the finest of Goudas fermenting in a refridgerator and label it as "post-dairy avant-garde art metal" as long as you drummed a little ditty with double-bass along with it.
As is the case with all experimental ideas, there are hits, direct collisions, near misses, and intersections of the parallel sort - two points if you get that last one. The overall effect of Solefald's work overrides the momentary misses that a discordant note may have, though. One of the few complaints I may have about this album is that it is not nearly long enough for my taste. Only eight true songs, and one a minute-long instrumental (though certainly beautiful enough in its own right). I am grateful, therefore, that a sequel is forthcoming.
To step back: for all my pretty and pithy blatherings, this fact remains true. There is something timelessly beautiful about this music, whether I can express it or whether you can hear it. I just hope others have the opportunity to experience it.
"Sun I called burning wheel
Sword I called wolf of steel
Star I called sword of light
Rune I called sign in stone
Dream I called what is not
Time I called Odin's dream
World I called Yggdrasil
Death I called end of all."
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