Latest release: Berdreyminn (Season of Mist)Website: www.solstafir.net
There are quite a few similarities between Australia and Iceland, surmises Sólstafir’s Aðalbjörn “Addi” Tryggvason. They are both large islands, for one thing, even if, as he points out, his home isn’t also a continent.
“Iceland is also pretty big compared to the number of people who live here. We are bigger than England, Denmark and Ireland, so like Australia has, we have a lot of wasteland in the middle!”
In the 23 years since Tryggvason started his band with former drummer Guðmundur Óli Pálmason, Sólstafir has evolved from a ritualistic Viking-style black metal band on their 2002 debut Í Blóði og Anda to an entity as expansive and atmospheric as Icelandic geography.
“Sólstafir’s music evolves every three years,” Addi says, alluding to the average span between the band’s full length releases. “People don’t realise that in three years, between albums, a lot of things happen in three years. You discover new bands and new music, you get different perspectives on things, you mature… even if it was a month between albums and you just change the studio – it would be a different album!”
He invokes the unpredictable nature of Iceland’s weather as a metaphor for the songwriting process: “In Iceland you can have every possible weather at once – hailstorm, sunshine, rain – in one day. Writing an album is like taking weather samples in Iceland!”
Sólstafir’s music seems very much the reflection of their homeland’s bleak environment, but Tryggvason says that the creative process can go to the very core of one’s being.
“Your surroundings from childhood will affect your mentality, social aspects and then you can go deeper and it can go down to your DNA,” he says. “Where does your DNA come from? It comes from a line of people who have been living with the stress of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, insane Satanic harsh winters, near-starvation because no one has money… and then I can jump in my car right now and in ten minutes, I am on the fucking Moon!”
Last year’s Berdreyminn was the first Sólstafir album not to feature Pálmason, whose departure from the band was particularly messy. Tryggvason declares the band situation to be happier now, and current drummer Hallgrímur Jón “Grimsi” Hallgrímsson has had plenty of time to with into the group dynamic.
“Band chemistry is a very strong, sacred thing,” he says. “We used to have a really strong band chemistry, but that died, so we had to form a new chemistry with our new drummer. It’s stronger now because we’ve played hundreds of shows and toured the world, but at that time (of Berdreyminn) it was sort of fragile about how it was going. For the first weeks we didn’t write, it wasn’t really a solid band because there was a new guy there. We wrote in the same method, but the band chemistry wasn’t mature. It’s a bit stronger there now, we’re getting it to a teenager – or a toddler! Shortly after this album came out I was already looking forward to making the next one. We’re enjoying going into the studio now. There’s no arguments in this band anymore.”
So with that said, and given that the band has only released six albums in the last 18 years, how soon could the next Sólstafir album come to light?
“We’ve got a few ideas on our phones, but we don’t have any songs. We don’t want to rush anything. There was a lot of pressure to make any album last time, so we did it a little bit fast, but I think we will go a little bit slower this time. It will be ready when it’s ready.”
As it should be.
SOLSTAFIR ARE TOURING WITH ENSLAVED THIS MONTH