To label Solefald as avant-garde metal would be both apt and misleading; apt in the sense they've always pertained to musical iconoclasm and misleading for those who regard avant-garde metal as a genre label. There's a similar polysemy and distinction to be made within the oft-used progressive tag - that is, the genuine/generic prog dichotomy. The ever-innovative, parameter-pushing, genre iconoclasts known as Cornelius Jakhelln and Lazare Nedland have always composed and created music that's genuinely progressive; music where avant-garde should only be applied as a descriptive observation, and certainly not as a subgenre branding. And while the music they've made for nigh on two decades has, understandably, limited commercial appeal, primed for the ears of those with more aurally esoteric tastes, they've managed to sustain a loyal following of dedicated fans throughout the years. And these fans will undoubtedly be revelling in the fact they'll soon be able to sample the latest deranged sonic offering from this talented duo, in the form of 'Norrønasongen. Kosmopolis Nord'.
With no press blurb to accompany this release, the listening experience is somehow primed by heightened esotericism. However, what I can gather from a little online digging, 'Norrønasongen. Kosmopolis Nord' is one part of a dual conceptual work, with the second instalment to be released in January next year, titled 'Norrønasongen: Kosmopolis Sud'. And, as I understand, the next record is to be the heavier companion to 'Norrønasongen. Kosmopolis Nord', for this first one is far from heavy. That depends, of course, on how you define 'heavy', although apart from some Sturmgeist/The Fall of Rome-infused industrial discordance introduced into the last two tracks and the crescendo-building climax of 'Norrønaprogen', the album presents Solefald's avant-gardism in a more understated manner. Understated, that is, by Solefald's own musically demented standards, as this still adheres to their genuinely progressive dynamic and, at times, thoroughly batty propensity.
Part of the joy of a new Solefald record is never knowing exactly what to expect and 'Norrønasongen. Kosmopolis Nord' is no exception. To be entirely honest, I didn't click immediately with all of the songs... but I regard this as a positive thing. Three to four listens later and it had me hooked. 'Challenging' is an apt word to describe Solefald's aesthetic... and this is what partly constitutes the essence of genuinely progressive music anyway, and why people with such a listening proclivity thrive on musical stimuli that demands cognitive attention beyond a mere emotional connection to its affective qualities. That is, music that stirs the psyche as much as the emotions, and in ways that can, at least initially, lead to a jarringly disjointed listening experience. But, as I said, that's part of the attraction of music that challenges, as much as appeases, the senses. And 'Norrønasongen. Kosmopolis Nord' ticks both these boxes.
With all lyrics in Norwegian, I'm unable to pass any comment on songs' themes, although the album feels like it's sonically bound together by a central concept, what with 'Norrønaprogen', 'Norskdom', and 'Norrøna: Ljodet Som Ljoma' all featuring the same musical motif. In fact, 'Norrøna: Ljodet Som Ljoma' is effectively a remix of 'Norrønaprogen' and, therefore, almost befitting of 'The Circular Drain'. In this sense, a remix clocking in at 11 minutes on an album with a playing time of just over 37 minutes is a little cheeky, but it's inventive enough in its reworked sonics to please the general Solefald aficionado.
Style-wise, the album's a folky, industrial, quasi-heavy amalgam with a little electro-pop thrown into the mix ('Det Siste Landskap'), although with Solefald's own twist on those genre elements. Cornelius and Lazare have always created music along their own self-styled and idiomatic progressive tangents, and 'Norrønasongen. Kosmopolis Nord' continues that path. It also engenders a wonderful atmosphere through lushly layered instrumentations (there's some sublime sounding violin throughout some tracks) and vocal arrangements. Lazare's clean vocals are as good as they've ever been and Cornelius' spoken-word and semi-spoken-word delivery works a treat, as usual. All in all, after a four year wait, it's great to have some brand new Solefald music. I now have high hopes for 'Norrønasongen: Kosmopolis Sud'.
NORRØNASONGEN. KOSMOPOLIS NORD
Review by Mark Holmes
27th Oct 2014
2) Det Siste Landskap (An Icelandic Odyssey Part IV)
4) Norrøna: Ljodet Som Ljoma (Solefald Vs. Sturmgeist & The Fall Of Rome)
5) Songen: Vargen (Solefald Vs. Sturmgeist & The Fall Of Rome)
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"Part of the joy of a new Solefald record is never knowing exactly what to expect and 'Norrønasongen. Kosmopolis Nord' is no exception."