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Premiere: Sólstafir – “Dagmál”

Sólstafir‘s strength, especially on their fifth album Ótta, is the Icelandic quartet’s ability to convey emotion with as few moving parts as possible. The listener doesn’t need to run through a maze of complex music theory and busy production choices to find their heart. Though they sing in Icelandic, their songs are universally understood primary colors. You get them, no matter where you are on the globe. And it feels all the more powerful because there are no contrivances. Sólstafir don’t sweat to make you feel something. They’re confident you’ll be able to get there on your own. They’re right.

Take the minimalist wonder that is “Dagmál”. It uses guitars like a cool breeze; almost more of a Windy & Carl soundscape than a rock song. (“Here Come the Cold Jets” is another thought.) Yet “Dagmál” does rock, driving with a tempo befitting freeway travel. Drummer Guðmundur Óli Pálmason maintains cruise control while tapping the gas with Keith Moon fills. He’s never obtrusive, though. None of the players are, right down to the simple melody that runs repeatedly through the track’s five minutes. This leaves singer Aðalbjörn Tryggvason to do the heavy lifting, to be the listener’s surrogate. He’s up to the task, reprising his role as one of metal’s most charismatic vocalists. But Sólstafir work as a whole. You don’t admire them for the brush strokes. It’s about stepping back, seeing the bigger picture, and feeling the wave of emotion wash over you.

“Dagmál” appears on Sólstafir’s Ótta. The album will be released September 2 by Season of Mist and it’s available for preorder now.

— Ian Chainey

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