Live Concert Photography: Reykjavik Calling at Brooklyn Brewery 9/14/19: Solstafir with Kælan Mikla
Currently comprised of founding member Aðalbjörn “Addi” Tryggvason with Sæþór Maríus “Pjúddi” Sæþórsson, Svavar “Svabbi” Austmann and Hallgrímur Jón “Grimsi” Hallgrímsson, the Reykjavik-based metal act Sólstafir, which derives their name from the Icelandic word for “sun beams” can trace their origins to when the band was formed by Tryggvason, bassist Halldór Einarsson, and drummer Guðmundur Óli Pálmason back in 1995.
As a trio, the band recorded the Í Norðriand Til Valhallar demo but Einarsson left the band shortly after its completion. During that period, Svavar Austmann joined the band as their new bassist — and the band began writing and recording their full-length debut Í Blóði og Anda, which wasn’t released until 2002 because of recording delays and label disputes. Shortly after Í Blóði og Anda was finished, Sæþór Maríus Sæþórsson joined the band for the recording of 2002’s Black Death demo. 2002 also saw the band playing live shows across their native Iceland.
After shopping a three track demo of songs around, the Icelandic metal act signed with Spinefarm Records in 2005. Their sophomore album Masterpiece of Bitterness was released later that year to positive reviews, including from Metal Storm, which called the album “the perfect mix of non-metal elements with metal ones makes it a necessary album for any metalhead looking for something that breaks the mold of pre-established genres.”
The band’s third album Kold was recorded in Sweden and released in 2009 with reviewers comparing their sound to the likes of Enslaved and Neurosis — but while also featuring atmospheric, almost shoegazer-like passages. Building upon a growing profile. the band began to regularly tour across the European Union, including the first of their several appearances at Roskilde Festival.
Svartir Sandar, Sólstafir’s fourth full-length album, which was released through Season of Mist Records found the band’s sound moving towards the experimental atmospherics of their acclaimed countrymen Sigur Ros — and interestingly, the album was their first chart placing album: the album landed at #7 on the Icelandic charts and #11 on the Finnish charts — with album single “Fjara” landing at #1 on the Icelandic charts. In fact, “Fjara” was named one of Iceland’s best songs of the past 20 years.
Ótta, the Icelandic band’s fifth album was released in 2014 and saw the band employing more expansive arrangements with the inclusion of strings and piano. The band released three videos from the album, and the band performed on RUV’s Stúdio Á.
In January 2015, Guðmundur Óli Pálmason left the band and was replaced by Hallgrímur Jón Hallgrímsson. And with their new lineup, the band released their sixth album, 2017’s Berdreyminn, which landed on the Top 50 of the International Charts across Europe.
Their Brooklyn Brewery set was a career-spanning set, which featured their genre-defying take on metal and death metal — a take that nods at psych rock, shoegaze and metal among other things. Icelandic post-punk trio Kælan Mikla opened. Check out photos from the show below.
Over the past year or so, I’ve written a bit about the Reykjavik-based synth-based post-punk act Kælan Mikla, and as you may recall the act — Sólveig Matthildur, Margrét Rósa and Laufey Soffía — had a breakthrough year last year: they played a critically applauded set at that year’s Roadburn Festival. were championed by the The Cure’s Robert Smith and toured with King Dude — before the release of their latest album, Nótt eftir nott, through Artoffact Records.
Interestingly, I wrote about two of the album’s released singles “Nornalagið,” an atmospheric and eerily cinematic track that also managed to be incredibly dance floor friendly as it featured a motorik groove paired with shimmering and arpeggiated synths and Soffía’s piercing wailing — and “Næturblóm,” a subtly industrial leaning track that continued in a similar vein as its immediate predecessor, but while recalling Sixousie and The Banshees and 4AD Records.
Although they played a quick-paced and very brief set, the set was primarily centered around the material off their latest album.