Monday, April 13, 2015

Solefald - World Metal. Kosmopolis Sud [2015]

If some kind of annual award for musical wackiness would have existed, Solefald would have trumped its competitors each year it put out a new album. While Sigh would have no difficulty competing against their Norse counterparts, the duo's latest, ''World Metal.'' achieves such levels of imaginative finesse, surrealistic progression, folksiness and unprecedented eccentricities, that it even tops their 2010 opus ''Norrøn Livskunst'' which was already one of the most superior bizarreries I had heard (it still keeps its position). Five years later, with nothing keep the masses appeased in between records besides an EP which struck me as far more mediocre and lethargic than it ought to be, Cornelius and Lazare reassemble for what might be the most astonishing afflatus the year has to offer, abandoning the traditionally 'Norse' aesthetics of their previous Icelandic Trilogy, a veritable amalgamation of epic Scandinavian black metal and the residual avantgarde,  and delving straight into the foliage global music complete with all its oddities.

That's not to say they've entirely abandoned their sound - certainly not - since the dispersion of the band's older niche is far more than piecemeal. You know it's Solefald. Lazare' indispensable cleans are there with all their epic, hovering gloss, interwoven with simplistic, heavy black metal riffing and grandiose synthesizers or organs that beckon such greats such as ''Song Til Stormen'' or ''Norrøn Livskunst''; and Cornelius' inflection is still there, maybe not as indecipherable or raspy as before, but certainly plump with force and carnal power. The echoes of the band's sound yawn and  reverberate with the majestic force of northern waves and huge, pallid Icelandic mountains. Yet there's caveat to it all, one that's all to absorbingly delicious. In retrospect, I remember maybe 2-3 real black metal riffs (aside from the swelling tremolos and richer chord progressions) and the guitars aren't so protean as, say, Dream Theater, nor as significant to the mix even though there are some marvelous, grooving anchorages on the record which owe themselves to Kornelius' riffcraft, so the guitars have given themselves up to other sounds populating the mix. Pianos, synthesizers, saxes, organs, all typical of the Solefald cannon. But this time the Norsemen have integrated even more, from Congolese toms to electronic inclusions that range far beyond the safer medium of samples and minute samples. We're talking multi-layered servings of mind-fuckage and, yes - I hesitate to say - even dubstep if that's what you want to call it. The opener, ''World Music With Black Edges'' is one that completely lives up to its name with entirely unpredictable sequences of oddly euphoric pianos to straight dance/disco scores. This is a rave, and the DJ's are two of Norway's busiest, most ingenious composers.

As much as I hate to admitting the apparent overtones of electronic music, ''World Metal.'' certainly never overlooks the fact that this is still a metal record (albeit one which purists will start to exorcise the moment they hear it) and Solefald seamlessly incorporate electronics - without overcrowding - into their smorgasbord of calculated cultural and musical diversity. There's also a twist to Cornelius' vocals in that they're far more mercurial. He keeps his gnarly guttural inflection, but he does an excellent job of channeling George Corpsegrinder-esque lows into such tracks like ''The Germanic Entity'' which sizzle with irresistible, crushing groove, as well cleaner moments, as in ''Future Universal Histories'' where he speaks through radio broadcast. At any rate, his timbre matches the diversity of sounds that envelope him, capable of modifying the changing environment. And if that piece didn't freak you out there's still ''Bububu Bad Beuys'', where Cornelius' minimalist, almost Darkthrone-ish riff patterns mold with tribal African beats and drums: it's sure to win the award for the most ridiculous song of the year. Yet these Norsemen are certainly not fucking around. ''String The Bow of Sorrow'' is a splendorous and uplifting tune with gigantic choral and instrumental overtures, a Scandinavian avantgarde response to Carl Orff's ''Carmina Burana'', and it's equally angry as it is somber.

It's a grand emotional crescendo, mounting to the moody finale, ''Oslo Melancholy''. I did miss tracks like the superb blackened rockabilly ''Blackabilly'' from the previous record, and I was mildly disappointed for the absence of something in the vein of ''Eukalyptustreet'', but the duo's ability to avoid dullness, interchangeability and nadirs is unbelievable. There are indeed very few artists in today's metal market who could hold up to such levels of consistency, change and originality as these two pariahs. ''World Music.'' is more emotionally gripping than any of the other records in their backlog, not for its sheer epic excellence but because it also feels like the folksiest of their offerings. Indeed, tracks like ''String the Bows of Sorrow'' are good enough to be sung by exiled Scandinavian sailors during long, troublesome voyages. So here's to another album that justifies why Cornelius and Lazare oughtn't acquire any other pastimes besides music, because when they make it, it's simply sublime, and with already some twenty spins I'm salivating at the thought an equally masterful, eccentric follow-up.

Future Universal Histories
World Music With Black Edges
The Germanic Entity
2011, or a Knight of the Fail

Rating: 93%

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