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Album Review: SÓLSTAFIR Endless Twilight of Codependent Love

8/10 Reviewer
Score

It seems like Icelandic black metal has only recently caught on, far after Sólstafir left the genre behind. The band’s roots in progressive viking metal seemed farther away than ever on 2017’s Berdreyminn, but that release’s emotive vein of post-rock still met the high standard of quality the band has maintained during its evolution. Though comparable to their countrymen Sigur Rós in terms of scope, Sólstafir’s hard-rock crunch draws a line in the sand between the ambient trends of modern post-rock. This amalgamation of grandiosity and viscera continues onto Endless Twilight of Co-Dependent Love, with a more polarized twist. Sólstafir’s massive arrangements and rustic grit reach notably accessible territory, rounded off by some callbacks to a savage past.

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After many years, “Akkeri” sees drummer Aðalbjörn "Addi" Tryggvason bring tremolo picking and blast beats back to the Sólstafir sound. The burst is short-lived before a return to a standard backbeat and, yes, cowbell, but it provides a satisfying precipice within a 10-minute labyrinth of explosive dynamics, infectious leads, and passionate vocals. Similarly, “Dionysus” begins and ends with vocalist/guitarist Aðalbjörn Tryggvason screaming bloody murder over wall-of-sound guitar chords from him and guitarist Sæþór Maríus Sæþórsson. This barbaric barrage becomes a springboard for galloping NWOBHM riffage and even a jammy, disco-beat-infused instrumental, putting it in the upper echelon of intense Sólstafir songs.

Other than the aforementioned exceptions, the bulk of Endless Twilight’s anger doesn’t boil above the temperatures of Berdreyminn. Swelling keyboards, soulful guitar licks, and Svavar Austmann’s growling bass tones glide along the half-time feel of “Drýsill,’ as Tryggvason reinstates himself as one of the scene’s most riveting singers. His register ebbs and flows with believable earnestness, as he guides Sólstafir to a tumultuous crescendo worthy of the Icelandic post-rock elite.

The following “Rökkur” incorporates strings, bells, and what sounds like flute into a psychedelic rock framework, but it’s still Tryggvason’s voice that remains the real show-stopper. As the song steadily drifts toward its luminous conclusion, he knows when to hang back in the mix and when to cut through with sincere dramatics. His melodies hold to the mystical atmosphere, while his delivery is more akin to post-hardcore bands like La Dispute and Touché Amoré than Scandinavian metal. Sólstafir's instrumentation achieves a comparable balance of lush production and stripped-back vigor.

Fluency in Icelandic is not necessary for receiving Sólstafir’s emotional impact, but the English lyrics of “Her Fall from Grace” certainly stand out. Telling a tragic, relatable tale about witnessing a loved one’s struggle with drug addiction, the song’s ethereal balladry gives way to an orchestral, exhilarating catharsis. While less progressive than most Sólstafir songs—especially that “nah nananah nananah” motif—the more direct approach fits the heartfelt lyricism. The line between palatable and conventional becomes thinner on “Til Moldar,” centered on a hypnotic down-tempo sway, but the expansive sonics and tactful dynamics do a lot to elevate its arrangement.

The same would go for “Or,” which goes full blues-rock revivalist with its dancing arpeggios and gravely guitar strains, but the second half shifts from a three-count waltz to an overwhelming eruption of massive riffs and overwrought scream-singing. This exhilarating time signature change is a fantastic example of Sólstafir gunning the throttle at just the right time—though leaning more into “rock” than “post.” Electrifying performances notwithstanding, the hard-rock stomp of “Alda Syndanna” isn’t exactly rocket science. Still, its lack of innovation is suitably made up for with undeniable catchiness. Sólstafir writing good music isn’t limited to double albums and experimentation—because these guys know what they’re doing.

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“Úlfur” closes out Endless Twilight with a return to heavier riffage, balancing the band’s usual monolithic moodiness with what sounds like Sólstafir’s take on proto-doom/classic metal bands like Trouble or Cirith Ungol. From battle-hardened chugging to evocative melodies and tranquil interludes, Sólstafir manages to retain its songwriting chops while streamlining its sound. Endless Twilight runs the gamut between Solstafir’s black metal foundation and its new penchant for tuneful, anthemic rock. All the while, the album circles back to sprawling orchestrations where it counts most, making this one of Solstafir’s most diverse albums. It’s hard to complain about some less left-field cuts, considering the production and musicianship backing it up.

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