Jun 172019


(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first of three posts we will publish in as many days about the recently completed Ascension Festival MMXIX, which took place in Mosfellsbær, Iceland, on June 13-15, 2019. These are Andy Synn‘s impressions of the event, and the next two are being written by Islander., who took the photos included here, unless otherwise noted)

As the title above indicates, I recently celebrated my birthday (all presents and donations will be graciously accepted), and this year decided to celebrate it in style by attending Ascension Festival in Iceland, where the brooding darkness and overall brilliance of the music was matched only by the brightness of the ever-present sunshine and the brilliance of the company.

So what you’re about to read is a few random thoughts about the experience which, while not totally comprehensive (although I made sure to see something of every band, I’ve decided only to write about the ones which really stood out), should hopefully convince one or two of you to join us at next year’s edition! Continue reading »

Jun 122019


I had grand ambitions for this post, with many more selections than you’re seeing here. I also had the goal of posting it yesterday before I left for the airport to begin a trip to Iceland. That’s where I am now, having arrived foggy-eyed and fuzzy-headed at Keflavik Airport this morning after a red-eye flight. I obviously didn’t get this done in time for yesterday, and had to cut it back to finish in time for today,


I’m a huge Tau Cross fan, and therefore was excited to see yesterday’s announcement by Relapse Records that a new album named Messengers of Deception will be released on August 9th. Equally exciting, the band rolled out a video for a new song to mark the occasion. Continue reading »

Jun 042017


More than a week has passed since the last time I compiled a round-up of new music for our site, the delay mainly caused by my MDF trip to Baltimore. As I look at the over-stuffed schedule of premieres lined up for the coming week, it may be another week before I can do another one.

Needless to say, I have a dramatically large list of new and newly discovered music from which to make selections. There’s not much rhyme or reason to my choices for this round-up, except of course that I like all of them — and hope you will too.


I’ve been a devoted fan of Sólstafir for many years, staying with them as their music has evolved and their fame has grown. Yet we’ve written very little about the band’s new album Berdreyminn. I suspect one reason is that when most of us here decide what to write about, we tend to favor bands who could use a little extra support rather than those who are already getting voluminous amounts of attention from sites with a far broader reach than ours. And Sólstafir are certainly in that category now. Continue reading »

Apr 162016

Solstafir-Legend live


As you may have discerned by now, I enjoy not only recommending new music in these round-ups but also selecting items for them that don’t all come from the same genres of metal. For this Saturday collection of recent discoveries, however, there’s perhaps more variety than usual because I’ve partially gone outside the realms of metal. This is always a risky maneuver because I so rarely listen to anything that isn’t metal. I don’t know how dependable my metal tastes are, but when I veer off those pathways I’m pretty sure my taste isn’t dependable at all. Self-doubt has never held me back, though, so here we go….


More than two years ago I wrote (here) about a split release by two Icelandic bands, Sólstafir and Legend, in which each of them covered a song originally recorded by the other. In Sólstafir‘s case, they put their stamp on a Legend song called “Runaway Train”.

Yesterday the two bands released a video in which members of both groups joined together last fall for a live performance of that same song from the split (which they had earlier recorded together at Studio Neptunus). The performance occurred in an abandoned industrial factory and was filmed by Brynjar Snær Þrastarson and edited by him and Frosti Jon Rúnólfsson. Continue reading »

Nov 132015

Damnation Festival 2015


(Andy Synn provides this report on the 2015 edition of Damnation Festival in the UK.)

It’s been a few years now since I last attended Damnation Festival, the annual celebration of all things dark and metallic hosted (as always) at Leeds University Student’s Union. But this year I knew I simply couldn’t miss it, as not only were a number of my favourite bands playing (hello Sólstafir, hi there Primordial) but also two bands I’ve been a fan of since their very first albums, but whom I’d never actually managed to see live before (The Ocean, Altar of Plagues).

Oh, and some band named At The Gates. Who are apparently pretty famous or something. Continue reading »

Jul 292015



(Here’s a thought piece by Andy Synn about a topic that we as reviewers have pondered more than once.)

Ok, so… originally this was just once piece. But, over the course of writing it, it began to snowball and expand beyond the original specifications. So it seemed only sensible to split it up, first into two, then into three, separate columns – that way you can pick and choose whatever parts most grab your fancy (and ignore the others).

Sound good?

Anyway, I’ve been kicking around some thoughts, feelings, and questions with various friends and compatriots recently, all to do with the idea of what it means to compare one band with another – when it’s appropriate, how frequently to do it, and how to do it right.

Because, and I’m pretty sure you’ll all be with me on this, over the years I’ve seen it done right, and I’ve seen it done very, very wrong…

Which leads us to Comparative Metallurgy, a three-part infosplurge of spurious factoids and absolutely bulletproof opinions about the use, abuse, and over-use, of comparisons between bands. Continue reading »

Jun 032015


Those of you who have been fortunate enough to see Sólstafir on tour recently will have noticed the absence of the band’s founding drummer Guðmundur (“Gummi”) Óli Pálmason. Today he released a long personal statement about the reasons for his absence. In a nutshell, the other band members “fired” him from the band before the beginning of the recently completed North American tour, both sides have retained lawyers, and there are obviously some very hard feelings in the aftermath of this split. Most of Gummi’s grievances are directed against the band’s vocalist/guitarist Aðalbjörn “Addi” Tryggvason.

I almost decided not to write this post. I have met both Gummi and Addi. I had fairly regular communications via the internet with Gummi over several years as we have covered what is one of our favorite bands on the planet, and I had some long conversations with Addi during Sólstafir’s two recent visits to Seattle. I certainly can’t say that I know either of them very well, but based on the time I spent with them, I liked them both a great deal — and of course I greatly admire what they have accomplished in Sólstafir. So, this controversy is for me a sad occurrence, more so than when things like this happen within other beloved bands whose members I don’t personally know.

Addi told me about what had happened between the band and Gummi after Sólstafir’s show in Seattle in early May, explaining that because of the legal entanglement, the band could not make any public statement. He was very respectful of Gummi when he spoke of him, and seemed very sad about what had happened, rather than angry. It didn’t seem my place to say anything about these events on our site, so I kept it to myself. Continue reading »

Jan 082015


Today we bring you Part 14 in the continuing rollout of our list of 2014′s Most Infectious Extreme Metal Songs. For more details about what this list is all about and how it was compiled, read the introductory post via this link. For the other songs we’ve previously named to the list, go here.

Some of you might question the appearance of today’s two songs on a list whose title includes the words “extreme” and “metal”, appearing on a site whose name abjures clean singing. I have a simple answer for you: It’s my list, and there’s no fuckin’ way I’m leaving these songs off of it.


Last month Iceland’s Sólstafir paid a visit to Seattle and performed a show at a cozy venue called Barboza, and I watched it from the second rank of people in front of the stage. I’d seen the band’s amazing set at MDF last year, but it was this show that made me realize something I hadn’t yet admitted to myself — that they are, right now, my favorite band on the planet. Continue reading »

Dec 192014


(Combined in this post are two different reflections on the live performances by Sólstafir, Mortals, and Pallbearer in Seattle on December 10, 2014, one by BadWolf and one by me (Islander). And for a third, you should also read Gemma Alexander’s wonderful write-up at her own blog — here. Unless otherwise noted, the photos accompanying this post were taken by me on a iPhone because BadWolf forgot his fancy camera.)


A band whose time has come.

Those are the only words that suit Icelandic four-piece Sólstafir in 2014. Most musicians never achieve what I’ve witnessed this year in Sólstafir—a moment (well, series of moments) that seem like the culmination of disparate chains of events, causal and serendipitous. In short, a climax. The money shot, one that seems both cathartic and earned, not for Sólstafir’s listeners, but for the band themselves.

The band of black metal cowboys has made music for two decades in relative obscurity, at least in the United States. I first encountered the group while trawling message boards in college, ravenous for progressive metal and finding most of it lacking. Sólstafir were different. Their early tracks came via shady download sites in low bitrates, with files unable to properly display the accent marks in their song titles, but still I found myself enamored of their unique sound, a mix of atmospheric sludge and progressive black metal that strived for beauty, not abrasiveness. Since then the band became a perennial NCS favorite and inked a deal with Season of Mist records, who released their fourth album, Svartir Sandar to a wider audience. Still, conversationally, Sólstafir was a footnote in greater conversations, even though one of their songs debuted at #1 in Iceland. Continue reading »

Oct 072014


Sólstafir’s “Fjara” from Svartir Sandar is one of my all-time favorite songs in any genre of music. It has been the subject of numerous videos, most of which have been live recordings. My favorite is still this one (in part because it’s the first Sólstafir video I ever saw), but a close second is the official video (here) made by directors Bowen Staines and Gunnar B. Guðbjörnsson, which follows a young woman in a thin wedding dress dragging a timber coffin across a stretch of Icelandic wilderness and encountering spirits along the way, culminating in a memorable scene at the Skógafoss waterfall.

The team that produced that striking video for “Fjara” has returned with a video that premiered within the last hour for the song “Lágnætti” off the band’s latest album, the remarkable Ótta. It is every bit as striking as the “Fjara” video, and is a beautiful match for the song. Continue reading »