Masterpiece of Bitterness: Solstafir live in Kansas City, MO 05/04/15
We come from the land
Of the ice and snow
From the midnight sun
Where the hot springs blow
Solstafir frontman Aðalbjörn Tryggvason let the small (yet intimate) crowd at the Riot Room on a rainy Monday night know that Led Zeppelin wrote Immigrant Song after playing in Iceland in 1970. “Don’t go to Iceland,” he proclaimed, “go somewhere closer, like Yellowstone.” With a headlining set in Kansas City (as opposed to their support set to Pallbearer at the same venue back in December), Solstafir was able to let their hair down a bit and play some of their lesser known tracks to great effect. Although it wasn’t nearly as big a crowd they’ve played in the past, Solstafir puts on the same intense show whether for 40 or 4000 people.
Starting as an Enslaved-like black metal group, Solstafir quickly ditched the blastbeats for a more atmospheric setting. Taking more from their Icelandic brothers in Sigur Ros than any Norwegian black metal band, Solstafir’s latest album Ótta showcases their propensity for creating large and epic soundscapes within traditional song structures. Opening tracks Dagmál and Lágnætti have beautiful, ethereal guitar tones and atmosphere, but a driving drum and bass beat that keep the band firmly rooted instead of completely spacing out – something a lot of bands playing this style of music should learn to do.
Although most of Solstafir’s songs straddle the line between complete post-rock and more contained music, there were a few outliers. Ótta is probably the closest the band has ever come to making a complete post-rock song – the band made great use of ebow’s and even a banjo during the song! To satisfy some of the older fans, the band performed She Destroys Again from 2009′s Köld album, letting everyone know Solstafir can still be fast and heavy when they want to – it was the closest thing to black metal that was performed all night.
Whether it was atmosphere or heaviness or beauty or anything in between, Solstafir may just be the best band of its kind around right now. They don’t noodle along and stretch songs out for no reason, their songs don’t follow the typical “rise-rise-rise-climax-fall” formula that so much post-rock songs seem to fall into, and they haven’t completely abandoned their roots in heavy music. The end result is a form of music completely unique and an unforgettable live performance to go along with it.
Opening the show was Ancient VVisdom and Keef Mountain. Ancient VVisdom is a Texas-based group that rose to prominence with the occult rock boom of a few years ago. However, unlike their contemporaries in Ghost, The Devil’s Blood and In Solitude, Ancient VVisdom’s sound is firm hard rock – almost sounding like it could be featured on rock radio. This made for some extremely catchy portions of songs, especially during “The Devil’s Work,” which had a very Type O Negative feel to it. Local opener Keef Mountain got things started with their incredibly loud and heavy brand of stoner/doom metal. Although the two-piece had to restart some songs and end some a little early, their music was impressive as ever. One of the bright spots in local doom metal for sure.
4. She Destroys Again
8. Svartir Sandar
10. Goddess of the Ages
Ancient VVisdom included:
World of Flesh
We Are Damnation
The Devil’s Work