Like Ulver or Katatonia, Icelandic quartet Sólstafir began their career by putting an unusually textured, melodic spin on a traditional metal subgenre, and pretty aggressively evolved to a point where the textures and melody had mostly eclipsed the metal. At Sólstafir’s peak — their outstanding 2009 breakthrough, Köld — those elements clashed so violently that they obliterated all genre walls around them. The album that followed that one, the 2011 double LP Svartir Sandar, found the band adventuring across the new terrain made available to them by the preceding carnage. Now they’re set to release Svartir Sandar’s follow-up, Ótta, and based on the first single/title track, it seems as though Sólstafir have moved away from their old grounds and into other pastures entirely. “Ótta” features a drifting vocal and slow atmospheric crest similar to the work of Sólstafir’s countrymen Sigur Rós, built around a bleak banjo that could have come off an old Iron & Wine track. Look, Sólstafir just played Maryland Deathfest, and Ótta is their second album with Season Of Mist (home to Mayhem, Gorguts, Inquisition, et al.), so the band’s metal cred is intact — furthermore, I’m aware my obsession with cataloging such things can be reductive and distracting — but I can’t help myself from saying it just the same: “Ótta” (the song, anyway) is not metal. In that regard, it slots nicely alongside the 2014 albums from Alcest and Opeth, filed under “other.” Or “boundless.” Your call. Listen.
Ótta is out 9/2 via Season Of Mist.