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introLive Music Hall, Cologne, Germany
26th October 2015
Sòlstafir, Mono, The Ocean

If it was up to me, we can make this a permanent thing: On October 26th, every second year, SÒLSTAFIR play a gig somewhere and I simply join in. Compared to a Helsinki show in 2013, the venue can be somewhat closer to home as, for example, Cologne this year. Although, there's actually nothing to sneeze at a short trip to an exciting part of Europe... However, unlike in the Finnish capital, at the river Rhine in Cologne I saved a trip to the local church and drove directly to the Live Music Hall, where on this Monday evening musical guests from Berlin (THE OCEAN), Tokyo (MONO), and SÒLSTAFIR from Reykjavik romped around. Aðalbjörn Tryggvason, the only remaining founding member, has made music with SÒLSTAFIR for twenty years now. Their tunes evolved over time from Viking Metal to incredible, atmospheric Post Metal. In 2002, guitarist Sæþór Maríus Sæþórsson and bassist Svavar Austman Traustaso became part of the band. A few months ago, drummer Guðmundur Óli Pálmason was also among them, however, not being of the party anymore he was replaced by a person unfamiliar to me.


The Ocean

Some time should pass before the Icelanders would go on stage though. And so, at 7:30pm it was THE OCEAN from the federal capital to lead off tonight's dark dance. Unfortunately, it seemed like the lighting technician didn't notice the beginning of the show, so that the workplace of the six men accompanied by a woman behind a cello was shrouded in darkness. One couldn't recognize much more than silhouettes dressed in black, but maybe that had been actually according to plan in order to avoid distractions from their music, which was unquestionably worth listening to. In addition to the already mentioned wooden string instrument, they had two guitars, bass, keyboards, and drums, all completed by a singer who switched between growls and clear vocals. There's no doubt about it, that the Post-Metal-activists intended to put the venerable industrial masonry on the Lichtstraße (English: Light Street) into a gloomy mood.

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And clearly, THE OCEAN managed to do so with their current lineup, which has often changed in the last fifteen years. Forty minutes playtime were filled with crunchy riffs, snarling singing, booming basses, and crashing slats and just rarely, like during the final ‘The Quiet Observer’, they shifted down a gear heralding the start of some quieter interlude. This way, THE OCEAN made a great start raising the bar damn high for the following act MONO. http://www.theoceancollective.com / https://www.facebook.com/theoceancollective

Setlist
01. Siderian
02. Rhyacian: Untimely Meditations
03. Hadopelagic II: Let Them Believe
04. Demersal: Cognitive Dissonance
05. The Quiet Observer

Rating
Music: 7
Performance: 8
Sound: 7
Light: 5
Total: 7 / 10

theocean3theocean4


Mono

After a twenty minute break, Tamaki (bass & piano), Yoda and Takaakira 'Taka' Goto (guitars), as well as drummer Yasunori Takada took a seat on stage and started a journey into the realms of Post and Psychedelic Rock. The band has been around since 1999 and fortunately they didn't confirm any of the prejudices against Japanese music that have been haunting me thanks to combos such as BABYMETAL or DIR EN GREY. They rather reminded me of a string quartet; so, the dramatic intro featuring classical music to announce the four musicians was quite fitting. With the opener ‘Recoil, Ignite’ their live performance was indeed powerful. The instrumental sound eruptions were accompanied by galvanic flashes of light, which were replaced with blue and green light in the following ‘Death In Reverse’ accentuating the long intro of the song and the absolute demolition to come. Sometimes, slow passages like these got too extensive though, as in, for example, ‘Kanata’. For this song Miss Tamaki turned from steel strings to keyboards.

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The piece was truly emotional, however, also long-winded from time to time. The same applies to ‘Halcyon (Beautiful Days)’ which kept one waiting for the big bang in the end. ‘Ashes In The Snow’ was significantly more dynamic beginning with the sounds of a xylophone and getting more and more bombastic. The epic guitar cascades were honored with much applause before the set ended with a surprisingly vibrant and danceable ‘Requiem From Hell’. http://www.monoofjapan.com / https://www.facebook.com/monoofjapan

Setlist
01. Recoil, Ignite
02. Death In Reverse
03. Kanata
04. Halcyon (Beautiful Days)
05. Ashes In The Snow
06. Requiem From Hell

Rating
Music: 8
Performance: 8
Sound: 7
Light: 6
Total: 7.5 / 10

mono3mono4


Sòlstafir

At 21:50, after another twenty-minute break for rebuilding, SÒLSTAFIR were finally ready to go. The musicians were that much in the spotlight that “braids-man” Svavar was wearing sunglasses during the opener ‘Dagmál’, while Aðalbjörn had dug a funny, fringed vest out of his trunk. Sæþór on the six-string was as fierce as ever kicking it into high gear with the song from last year's ‘Òtta’. The capturing staccato sounds and hypnotic constancy of the following ‘Ljós i Stormi’ from the previous record ‘Svartir Sandar’ (2011) was quite rightly celebrated with much applause. Smoke swirled once the spherical ‘Òtta’ set in. At the same time, band mate Sæþórsson fret some chords on a banjo before picking up the guitar again. This was also an awesome track with a lot of charisma that you cannot escape from, even if you wanted to. During ‘Náttmál’ there were drum rolls next to mystical guitar tunes, some uncanny drama, and a playing around with tempi. After SÒLSTAFIR greeted the fans in German at that point, they challenged us to clap during the highly energetic ‘Pale Rider’ from ‘Köld’ from 2009, which all those present did showing much stamina.

solstafir1solstafir2

There were even sufficient reserves left for further acclamations, which were also needed for the amazing ‘Fjara’. This piece played in blue light always gets under your skin making it without any doubt one of the highlights of SÒLSTAFIR's discography. With ‘Goddes of The Ages’ vocalist and guitarist Tryggvason unfortunately announced the last song; a circumstance that fans could have only prevented, if they had bought all the merch within the next five minutes. This obviously didn't happen,thus, the final minutes had to be appreciated as much as possible. Aðalbjörn switched his “noise bar” with a uniform cap, which made him look slightly like the bearded Mr Kalein from “The Boat”, and quite literally got in touch with the audience. He hugged a few girls and shook some hands before leaving the pit again to get back on stage, where the band delivered a grandiose finale including some shouting games with the audience. After this, they made short work: no prolonged farewell, the show was over, a raised hand to wave goodbye, and SÒLSTAFIR were gone.

solstafir3solstafir4

After all, they brought their completely enthralled followers 70 minutes full of energy. Of course, one could have offered a generous second serving, but the North Atlantic islanders don't do that – it's alright, as long as we see each other again, at the latest in October 26, 2017! http://www.solstafir.net / https://www.facebook.com/solstafirice

Setlist (no liability assumed)
01. Dagmál
02. Ljós i Stormi
03. Ótta
04. Náttmál
05. Pale Rider
06. Fjara
07. Goddess of The Ages

Rating
Music: 9
Performance: 8
Sound: 7
Light: 7
Total: 8 / 10

solstafir5solstafir6

All pictures by Daniela Vorndran (http://www.vorndranphotography.com / http://www.facebook.com/blackcatnet)
Written by Ulrike Meyer-Potthoff, translation by Layla Ayobi


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