Out of the green (or is it icy?) lands of Iceland, Sólstafir continues to craft music that is difficult to define. Their beginnings were in black metal, but over the years they have quickly moved away from that genre and have incorporated punk, as well other rock/metal genres into their unique sound. Ótta, the group’s fifth full-length album pushes Sólstafir into all new directions. The punk attitude and the dirty guitars of past releases are still there, but Ótta teems with somber atmosphere and evokes strong sensations of regret—much like its album cover with an old man along a foggy, rocky beach, perhaps reminiscing of past regrets. But then again, my absolute lack of understanding of the Icelandic language may dictate otherwise. Ótta opens with the slow somber piano in Lágnætti. Layers of violins and other instrumentation build as the song progresses into a rocking, punky piece with the yelled vocals of Aðalbjörn “Addi” Tryggvason. The exquisite title track again embodies the more atmospheric nature of this album as atmospheric guitar affects beautifully intertwine with the sound of violins. Banjos accelerate the song as fuzzy guitars lie beneath the overwhelming sense of regret, augmented by violins that reappear at the end of the song. Not all of Ótta is as immersed in atmosphere. Tracks, such as Miðdegi and Nón, are up-tempo punk rock-ish songs that are closer to previous Sólstafir albums. Nón has quite a rocking second half and some tasty guitar work with that fuzzy dirty guitar tone that Sólstafir so eloquently uses. Miðaftann returns to the atmospheric feel, now so prominent in Ótta, with a piano intro, soft vocals, and later builds into a majestically somber piece with a beautiful piano melody accompanied by violin. Finally, the album closes out with Náttmál, which has all of the characteristics heard throughout this great album. Prior Sólstafir have usually been slightly longer than they should have, but that is not the case with Ótta. Ótta pushes Sólstafir into new directions as they ever so continue to evolve and explore new sonic territory. They have managed to craft a beautiful album that still retains that dirty, punk sound that they have developed over the years, while adding new elements to their sound, and perhaps one of the better albums of the year.
Genre: Post Metal, Experimental
Label: Season of Mist
Release: August 29, 2014