Season Of Mist
I love it how every Solstafir album is reviewed by a different writer on our site. Just as no album by this chameleon Icelandic band is the same, it was very fitting that everybody contributed his own view on what Solstafir did this time around. It is now my turn to share an opinion about what I think Solstafir presents with Berdreyminn in 2017.
The first, and maybe cursory, look at Berdreyminn does suggest that Solstafir did not take as big of a step away from Otta as their trajectory on several preceding albums might have suggested. There is no return to black metal or anything aggressive on Berdreyminn, and the album is full of atmosphere just as Otta was. The songs are classic drawn out Solstafir structures with quieter moments full of introspection and folk influences. It is if one gets to visit Iceland fjords and look at the landscapes through the morning fog or by the evening fire. Sure, Otta was also very elegiac and dreamy, but listening to Berdreyminn I sensed a lot more positivity and uplifting of the spirit, unlike Otta which was way sadder and still full of bitterness, a trademark of Solstafir. On Berdreyminn, songs like Silfur-refur, Naros and Hvit Saeng, after they revel in dreamy goodness for long 3 min or so turn on the stoner rock, with Solstafir repeating their infectious riffs, with a good helping of grime and dirt on them. Whereas quieter parts have guitars detuned to vibrating twangy levels, the rocking parts focus on tightness and certain degree of masculinity. I guess after taking the nature in, the listener Solstafir is imagining does get on the road and start driving. I have to say that where some could criticize the band for repetitiveness in the riff department, I loved the result, it is hard to argue how catchy Silfur-refur, Isafold, Naros or Hvit Saeng are. The latter specifically opens up with a gentle open, wirebrush caressed lullaby, but after a few ominous notes switches to brawny struggle. It is if a promise is being made to a child in uncertain times, and then harsher reality reveals itself.
It is conceivable that Berdreyminn will break Solstafir fandom in two. There will be those who will prefer the softer moments. Hula opens up with sounds of birds flying over some distant shores and have some female oh-ahs adding to Adalbjorn Trygvasson's soul screams. Dyrafjordur and Ambatt are even more meandering progressive tunes never breaking out of funk, never coming into sharp focus. I actually thought those moments are more of a soft underbelly on Berdreyminn, and ending with Blafjall, starting with a religious organ, but layering on more and more riffs as the song developed ended the album on a strong note. The combination of atmospherics and stoner rock, the more forceful side of it, is where Berdreyminn better moments lie.
Gone (or so I hear) is banjo from Otta, and Berdreyminn does a lot less with Americana string arrangements, and piano plays a strong part on the album. There are touches of tender ivory everywhere, and those contrast well with bass or guitars often sounding snappy. Vocals are still in a drunken haze, withdrawn, but super emotional. The only element I found issue with was drums. Having parted ways with the original drummer Gudmundur Oli Palmason, the drums on Berdreyminn are sometimes oversimplified, and in some moments it feels that they lag behind the rhythm a bit. I can only think what Katatonia like percussion would have done with progressive cuts on Berdreyminn.
At any rate, Berdreyminn is a step relatively parallel to Otta, but with a different mood and disposition. I can't quite call the album happy, but if anything, it is certainly not gloomy and depressive. I loved listening to it on a pair of my recent long car rides, and when I played a few cuts to my 13 yr old he was in love in Icelandic words and native sounds.
Alex quoted 88 / 100
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