Solefald Red for Fire – An Icelandic Odyssey Part 1

The opening moments of Solefald’s Red for Fire, the introductory half of a two-part/two-album conceptual journey, unfold with a lulling calm. However, before the first song is over, Solefald’s extreme metal edge returns to blast through the soft, lilting chant, and the rest of the album proceeds like a battle between warring forces of melody and violence. Red for Fire tells the tale of a Viking-era poet, but its quieter passages are still more art rock than traditional folk, occasionally marked with the sounds of saxophone or synthesiser, clean vocals or, most often, the singing tones of a violin. The mellowest tracks fall at the beginning and midway, prominently featuring female guest vocalist Aggie Peterson (Frost), or in the two narrated poems: one an interlude called "Prayer of a Son,” the other Icelandic verse read by an Ásatrú (Old Norse belief system) priest. Aside from these lighter interruptions, heavy tends to win out on Red for Fire, and the record is less experimental and satirical than one might expect. It’s a good combination, but a gradual rather than an immediate pleasure. (Season of Mist)