Before I make this comparison, I want you to know that this is black metal. It isn’t anything else. It is not indie, it is not country, it is not death metal. It is nothing except black metal. Now I can make this comparison and hopefully avoid confusion, though the album cover should more or less clue you in concerning what type of album this is. When Joanna Newsom (whoever that is) came out with her recent album, I remember hearing a lot of talk about it. Usually when one of these types of artists who I don’t listen to gets mentioned, I don’t pay a lot of attention. What caught me about her album was that it was a triple album. I’d actually never come across one of those. I considered how incredibly long some double albums feel. I thought about Rosetta’s The Galilean Satellites as one of the few albums that had to be a double album. I thought about how Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti would have been better if it wasn’t a double.
This all comes to mind as I was looking at Sól by Helrunar (German for Hellrunner). Here is one of the first few black metal releases of 2011. It’s getting a bit of attention it seems, but overall this is a largely unspoken of band and they are trying to get into my good books on my very first listen of their work with a double album. Really, a double album is risky enough as it is, but grindcore is amongst the very few metal subgenres that I would say is less fitting for a double album than black metal. I don’t know the back story behind why they released a double album. I don’t know what this band sounds like. I don’t know anything about them. Here I am expecting to be in for a long listen. Maybe, hopefully, mercifully this album might not be like sitting through a Dream Theater double album. Maybe they have some variation. Is this just terrible production and Darkthrone worship for an hour and a half? Shouldn’t be. This is labelled as melodic black metal.
Intro track. Predictable build up. Nothing extremely special going on here. Some dude talking. Then it hits you. The second track, “Kollapsr”. Suddenly you find yourself listening to one of the most unique black metal riffs in recent memory. Here is a song that has the perfect balance of melody and traditional black metal sensibility. Needless to say, there are a lot of cases of albums that start off good but then quickly die off. Thankfully, this is not at all the case. Sól is an album that manages to pace itself well as far as quality goes, but what’s even more impressive about this album is the variation and the different ways in which they manage to create awesome songs. Actually, when I was asked about this band and what they sound like, I couldn’t bring up any good comparisons. They do have a lot of melody to them, but it isn’t always present. There is also a great mix of speeds, ranging from in you face in an abandoned shed black metal to holy shit the world is coming to an end almost doom metal.
This unique style and consistent variation makes the hour and a half length fly by. Truthfully, I was anticipating being bored half to death. Instead, I was actually surprised how quickly this album was over on more than one occasion. Overall, there isn’t a whole lot to complain about with this album. It certainly does not feel like a ‘perfect’ album at this time, but it does everything you could want from a black metal album, and it does it in it’s own way. Sól is a fantastic album that fans of black metal should enjoy. Well maybe not the black metal fans that say things like “there hasn’t been a good black metal album since 1993.” But fuck those guys.