three years since Svartir Sandar, the last album from Iceland's Sólstafir.
On Ótta, they seem to pick up where they left off. The same expansive and cold yet cinematic sound that graced that album is
also present on Ótta. The songs build layer upon layer, using instruments like a banjo (the title track) and a piano (Lágnætti)
as the lead instrument. Since no one is credited as playing banjo or piano,
I guess it shows that Sólstafir is not a "typical" rock band.
"Lágnætti" begins calmly before erupting into a loud stomp,
after which they effortlessly build until the conclusion. The title track also builds from a calm, quiet place before that guitar/banjo phrase takes over. This is a hook you will remember. "Rismál," with its a capella opening, is one of the shorter tracks but it still has plenty of time to build from that opening to a climatic guitar solo. "Dagmál" is almost poppy,
and not in a bad way. It's a mid-tempo number that pulsates along and has a nice groove.
The great thing about this album is that each song is very different from the rest. I don't speak Icelandic but it doesn't matter. Each song has distinctive melodies and a specific style. "Middegi,"
for example, has a noisy style with an urgent vocal and clanging guitars.
Up next, "Nón" is a favorite of mine
-- expansive, yet it rocks. It has an almost Floyd-like melody line -- the angry Roger Waters, I mean! "Midaftann" is almost ballad-like with a serene piano and strings at the end of the track. The epic closer, "Náttmál," has the same building crescendo the other epics use. Keyboards yield to fuzzy guitars, urgent vocals
and a massive organ sound,
and finally the song just erupts at the end. It's the perfect closing track to an absolute masterpiece.
Sólstafir have done it again. Indeed, they have completely outdone themselves. This
is easily one of the best releases of 2014.