Baphomet is the goat-headed deity that represents the Devil on one of the Major Arcana cards in the Tarot deck. Below his massive figure, there are two humans, a man and a woman, standing naked in chains. It’s quite a powerful image that speaks of a very special type of relationship; The Devil speaks of love that feels like an addiction – that is, codependency, which usually plays an integral part in the demise of any relationship. The Devil is quite a striking Tarot card visually and it was something that first rushed into my mind after watching the latest video release by the darkly shaded Icelandic post-rock outfit, SÓLSTAFIR.
On September 3rd, the band premiered the second new song from their upcoming album, “Endless Twilight of Codependent Love,” which is due out on November 6th, 2020, via Season of Mist. The title of the song, ”Drýsill,” stands for ”demon” in Icelandic, while the lyrics tell the usual story of a woman who falls for someone promising her the world with a smile that’s riddled with evil intentions – that is, the song depicts the screenplay for a fundamentally toxic relationship. It’s a cliché that’s older than the world itself, probably dating back to the garden of Eden. Nevertheless, it definitely works as a perfect theme by which to journal the torments of a personal journey through hell. The song is about spiraling into darkness, fighting your demons, and snatching back your power over them. In this song, SÓLSTAFIR captures the feelings of despair, death, and abuse through music in nothing short of a spectacular manner. Glacial synth pads, post-rockish guitar ostinatos, and the band’s vocalist, Aðalbjörn Tryggvason, singing in Icelandic weave a haunting atmosphere that conveys the feeling of walking in and out of hell. Even though you might not understand a single word of the lyrics, you simply have to appreciate the emotional power of the band’s delivery.
The lyrics on the album are predominantly in Icelandic, with only one track featuring English lyrics. ”Her Fall From Grace” chronicles the pain of watching a loved one succumb to mental illness. According to the band’s frontman, Tryggvason, this particular track was the most personal song on the album to record for him. He likens the experience to seeing an elderly relative being consumed by Alzheimer’s, watching as your loved one slowly turns into a stranger. The feeling of helplessness becomes so tangible through the song it’s crushing – in slow motion. The song is an ambient, post-rock hymn that shares a somewhat desolate mood similar to Lars Von Trier‘s film Melancholia. The music video for the song was released on October 1st and I can relate to one YouTube commentator, who’d rather hear the band singing in Icelandic, ”Sorry, but Icelandic is like a magician language.” It truly is.
In a true black metal fashion, SÓLSTAFIR‘s early lyrics plunged into Nordic mythology and critiques of organized religion. Maybe it’s a symptom of the band’s coming of age, but on their new album, the song lyrics explore a bit more sophisticated themes such as spiritual connection with nature and mental disorders ranging from depression to alcoholism and the taboo of speaking of such things. In the case of men, in particular, it has been perceived as a sign of weakness. ”Endless Twilight of Codependent Love” is shaded with the real darkness of the world – those specific, dark shadows that come much closer to most of us than the serial killers and war-dogs of the world ever could.
As a peculiar coincidence, the album cover features a picture of The Lady of the Mountain, painted in watercolor by Johann Baptist Zwecker in 1864, and you cannot avoid a strong flashback of SMASHING PUMPKINS‘ gargantuan 1990s album classic ”Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness.” In retrospect, it was an album that proved to be Billy Corgan‘s greatest tour-de-force to date, capturing the angst-riddled zeitgeist of the era with refined taste. Likewise, on their new album, SÓLSTAFIR has evolved and matured to a whole new level. The band tugs at your heartstrings with the stylistic tricks of choice ranging from the languid blues in ”Or” to the band’s slight return to its black metal roots in ”Dionysus.” These Icelandic metal druids have aged well, like unadulterated wine, from the early days of their breakthrough song ”Fjara,” released in 2011. ”Endless Twilight of Codependent Love” is a fine blend of shoegaze, black metal, and post-rock. It must feel like a huge privilege for the band to mix, say, Ennio Morricone and DARKTHRONE – and get away with it.
From the emotional crescendos of the opening track, ”Akkeri,” to the widescreen post-rock melancholia of the album closer, ”Úlfur,” SÓLSTAFIR‘s new outing washes over you like a tidal wave, with the full spine-chilling momentum of the Arctic Ocean. On occasion, the emotions fluctuate in slow-motion, like in the song, ”Til Moldar,” which takes a deep nod towards BOHREN & DER GLUB OF GORE, even. The next thing you know, ”Alda Syndanna,” resonates with the strong air of 1990s alternative/indie rock, and ”Or” takes you on a trip down somewhat bluesy roads – only in Icelandic. What a magnificent treat of an album!
Written by Jani Lehtinen
- Her Fall From Grace
- Til Moldar
- Alda Syndanna
- Hrollkalda Þoka Einmanaleikans (bonus track)
- Hann For Sjalfur (bonus track)
- Aðalbjörn “Addi” Tryggvason – guitar, vocals
- Svavar “Svabbi” Austmann – bass
- Sæþór Maríus “Pjúddi” Sæþórsson – guitar
- Hallgrímur Jón “Grimsi” Hallgrímsson – drums
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