I’m having an extremely difficult time trying to avoid starting this review with a cliché along the lines of “the trees shed their yellow dresses and adorned their crystal white wedding gowns” or “the atmospheric bands brought a soothing breath of Northern winds to Belgrade”. I’ll just put that in the title. But the fact that this show took place at almost the exact time as the first snow this year is magical nonetheless. My friends and I often discuss whether some bands are better to listen to during a certain time of the year or a certain season. Whether you feel the same or not, you have to agree that SÓLSTAFIR, Myrkur, and Árstíðir are a perfect match for the Winter.
These are just some of the thoughts passing through my head during the rare few moments I wasn’t enjoying the music between the performances. My fellow journalists (including myself) never fail to mention if there were not enough people at a show. Well, would you look at that? Sold out. True, many were left hoping the show would get moved to a bigger venue as the interest was high, but alas, that’s not how things usually work in showbiz. Still, the crowd was not too dense, not like it was the case with Voivod’s show a couple of months back.
The first to climb the stage were the nice Icelandic guys from Árstíðir. I have to admit I was not familiar with their music prior to the show, so the fact that the band was made up of three guys playing acoustic guitars and keys was a surprise. Turns out it was a pleasant one. Even though I expected the band to plug in their electric guitars at some point, the entire show was acoustic. And a very soothing one at that. The charming Icelandians are incredible musicians and singers, every last one of them. Hearing their layered vocals fitting like pieces of a puzzle was a magical experience. There’s simply no better way to describe their show. The band was joined by Sólstafir drummer, Hallgrímur Jón Hallgrímsson, for a couple of songs off of their upcoming album to be released by Season of Mist. The band was honestly taken aback by the reception, which was a bit warmer than it’s the case with most bands that open shows like this.
I won’t hide the fact that I was looking forward to Myrkur’s show the most. For those living under a rock, this atmospheric black metal band was formed by Amalie Bruun. This year they released a brand new album titled “Mareridt”, and if you’ve read my review you know I did not hide my love for it. From the moment the a cappella vocals of the title track echoed throughout the venue it was clear this was going to be a performance to remember. Amalie sounds as impressive live as she does on the record and her growls sound even better live. While they are somewhat silent on the album, her screams tore through our eardrums last night.
When you have a band of this scale, talking about how it’s made up of great musicians is obsolete. Every tone and every beat were on point. In a couple of songs, Amalie grabbed her guitar and shaman drums and showed off that side of her talent as well. The only thing that might have made this show any less than perfect was its duration. Maybe it’s just me, but I was under the impression that everyone was sure there would be an encore right after Amalie performed a traditional Scandinavian song. Instead, the band members started packing their gear, making way for the headliners.
As soon as Myrkur ended their show I was sure that this performance will steal the entire show. I might have gotten ahead of myself. I was sure that no matter how good Sólstafir were, they wouldn’t surprise me as I’ve already had the chance to see them live this summer at the MetalDays festival in Slovenia. However, the small venue added to the intimate atmosphere and the band managed to touch every single soul at the show. If someone can be solely credited for doing that, it’s the band’s frontman Aðalbjörn Addi Tryggvason. A lot of musicians are called “frontmen”, but not all of them deserve the title as much as Addi does. Between descending among the crowd, pinpointing people in the crowd and making jokes along the lines of “what would you do if I were Bruce Dickinson“, Addi was determined not to let anyone in the crowd feel left out and bored. Besides, not everyone can command a total silence at a metal show. That deserves an applause!
The powerful performance combined with an incredible musicianship is a clear show why Sólstafir experienced such a rapid rise to fame and became a band loved by everyone. If you could just see the colorful crowd last night you’d know what I’m talking about. The fact that the sound was impeccable only added to the overall enjoyment. Unlike Myrkur’s show that left us craving more, Sólstafir played deep into the night, even though some still felt like they could stay and listen to them a lot longer. The band closed their set with “Goddess of the Ages”, the song even casual visitors knew. I bet those casual visitors are soon going to become die-hard fans. This is how you play a show!
Like many other bands that visited us this year, Sólstafir promised to come back again soon. We have no other choice but to wait for that moment and their next tour to see if they keep their promise. There’s obviously a strong interest for another show and they obviously have a lot of loyal fans here. Let’s just hope that the whole package will be as impressive then as it was now. The people who visited their show had a chance to witness the performance of a couple of rising stars, which makes for a good conversation starter.
“Hey kid, let me tell you about the first time I saw Sólstafir…”