Solefald - _Black for Death: An Icelandic Odyssey Part 2_
(Season of Mist, 2006)
by: Kostas Sarampalis (8 out of 10)
I still remember the day I listened to _The Linear Scaffold_ for the first time. I sat on my bed with the digipak in my hands and did not move until the album finished playing. Not even to close my mouth. I was so impressed, so unbelievably gob smacked by the sheer innovation of this newcomer. Fast forward about a decade and Solefald have not stopped being creative, complicated, intriguing and annoying in equal measures. Not having liked _Red for Fire_, the first part of the adventurous Icelandic saga, I cannot say I was looking forward to the conclusion that much. Compared to _Red for Fire_ though, _Black for Death_ stands firmer on its creative feet: more solid and focused, faster, less meandering, with themes that occasionally soar out of the general introspection of this two disc saga.

Starting more or less from where the previous album left us, "Red for Fire, Black for Death" is an upbeat opener and "Queen in the Bay of Smoke" contains the now familiar Solefald experimentation and strings interplay. "Necrodyssey" sounds a lot like the _Pills for Ageless Ills_ era, whereas elsewhere in the album "Loki Trickster God" has some beautifully fitting guest vocals by the trickster himself, Trickster G (aka Garm) of Ulver. As the album concludes for the first couple of listens, it indeed sounds better than the first part; and this feeling persists during further, more in-depth listens.

That is not to say that I did not find problems with _Black for Death_ however. "Silver Dwarf" is a bit tedious, and the just over a minute long instrumental "Underworld" could have been incorporated into another song. I must admit that I am not very fond of Cornelius's wolfish rasp, either. It gets monotonous and colours the album a bit monochromatic at certain levels. Fortunately, the quality and diversity of vocals in general in _Black for Death_ make up for it. I was also surprised to find two "Lokasenna" tracks, which I find as boring as the first similar song in _Red for Fire_, which is mostly spoken dialogue. At least the orchestration is more involving this time, especially in "Part 3".

Closer "Sagateller" sums up most of the best elements of this two part odyssey, complemented by one of the best violin themes I have heard in a while, slowly building up in a crescendo. Of course once again they get full marks for their lyrics, which resemble nothing of most of the childish attempts to philosophising by most contemporaries. Cornelius's prose has been unfaltering since Solefald's humble beginnings.

As much as I hate criticising one of my favourite bands, my expectations from them are very high and they have proved time and again that they have the capacity for brilliance. But lately I have the feeling that Cornelius and Lazare have over-extended themselves with various personal projects (Sturmgeist, Age of Silence, Borknagar, etc.). There is only so much creative juice that even the most accomplished and talented artists have, and the more they try to stretch it, the thinner the resulting potions.

In the end, it would have been preferable to see the best parts of I and II edited into a single album. The outcome would have been much more focused. Still, I think it is a lot better than Arcturus's or Opeth's latest albums, and I wholeheartedly recommend _Black for Death_ to old time fans and newcomers alike. It has an abundance of experimentation, talent and feeling that should not go unheard.


(article published 28/11/2006)

4/13/1998 P Azevedo Solefald: Unifying the Musical Extremes
12/14/2010 K Sarampalis 9.5 Solefald - Norrøn Livskunst
11/7/2005 N Shahpazov 6 Solefald - Red for Fire: An Icelandic Odyssey Part 1
6/30/2003 P Azevedo 8.5 Solefald - In Harmonia Universali
10/19/2001 P Azevedo 8 Solefald - Pills Against the Ageless Ills
10/12/1999 P Azevedo 6 Solefald - Neonism
3/10/1998 P Azevedo 9 Solefald - The Linear Scaffold
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