Norrøn Livskunst

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Solefald's seventh studio album, 2011's Norrøn Livskunst (which translates as "the Norse art of living"), inaugurated a new partnership with Norway's own Indie Recordings for the ever-restless two-man outfit, but, other than that change, its music was predictably, well, unpredictable. Of course, surfing the very crest of the post-black metal avant-garde is nothing new for Solefald, nor is the contrasting interpolation of Norwegian history into their lyrics, which, on this occasion, happen to explore one of their country's cyclical reappraisals of pre-Christian (read: Viking) traditions by the native artistic community during the early 20th century. Further analysis of said lyrics is reserved for those who can speak the archaic version of Norwegian in which Solefald penned them, but the voices and instruments that carry them are universally accessible, in a manner of speaking. After all, Solefald's densely arranged compositions continually defy most rock & roll conventions as to structure and form, as they fuse the band's underlying black metal DNA with alien musical elements, most closely comparable to ‘70s progressive rock titans like Yes if they were to emerge from Norwegian fjords in 2011. In part, this resemblance (see "Song til Stormen," "Til Heimen Yver Havet," etc.) can be easily pegged by the duo's Jon Anderson-like vocals; in part due to the art rock complexities all around, but it's really only the tip of the iceberg in an album where most every song springs a unique surprise upon the listener. Let's see, there's the jazzy piano and sax breaks (think Sting's Dream of the Blue Turtles album) in "Eukalypstustreet"; the driving, funky horns (à la Bowie's Thin White Duke period) that crop up in "Vitets Vidd i Verdi"; the funky white boy guitar solo in "Hugferdi," and, wildest of all, the hilarious vocal pastiche (including wacky harpy ad libs such as "a-wop-bop-a-loo-bop-a-wop-bam-boom") in "Tittentattenteksti" -- one of several tracks featuring guest vocalist Agnete Kjølsrud (a baby Jarboe, it would appear). The latter track obviously reveals Solefald's sense humor, and how many progressive rock bands can claim that quality? It also shows a band totally comfortable in their own skin, even if that skin shifts colors as effortlessly and radically as a chameleon; so whether Norrøn Livskunst speaks to one's personal tastes or not, it's impossible not to respect the scope of Solefald's courage, talent, and vision.

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