"Red For Fire: An Icelandic Odyssey Part I"

(Season of Mist)

01. Sun I Call
02. Survival of the Outlaw
03. Where Birds Have Never Been
04. Bragi (Instrumental)
05. White Frost Queen
06. There Is Need
07. Prayer of a Son (poem)
08. Crater of the Valkyries
09. Sky I Called
10. untitled bonus track

RATING: 6/10

There's a tendency in the metal press to elevate anyone classified in that nebulous, nearly-useless category of "post-black metal," as if the mere act of ditching corpse paint and hiring a violinist somehow makes one a more serious artiste. Much of the praise is warranted — after all, some of the best music out of the underground in recent years has come from one-time black metallers, as they've matured and been influenced by other forms of music, and gained the confidence and wisdom to apply those influences to their own art.

But then you have a frustrating case like SOLEFALD. They keep making albums that are interesting, on an academic level, and full of the requisite, by-now-clichéd "hey, we're weird" touches (sax solos, ludicrous vocals, or strings, for example). But a lot of what they do never really sticks — it's a pile of charismatic parts, most notably Lazare's warm and evocative, if occasionally off-key, clean vocals. It just doesn't hold up as a cohesive collection of memorable songs.

There's enough cool bits on "Red For Fire" to recommend it to less discriminating post-black metal fans — the opening track is a swelling dirge that aches with pathos, and even the aforementioned sax solo doesn't kill off its atmosphere. But the following track, "Survival of the Outlaw", is a disjointed, silly exercise alternating generic riffing and overwrought vocals with a flown-in "pretty part" that makes no sense. "Where Birds Have Never Flown" is even worse — it's not atmospheric, or experimental, or avant garde… it's just boring.

On the plus side, "Crater of the Valkyries" is the best song on the album, the centerpiece of this Viking saga. It's got atmosphere, varied vocals, and a compelling chorus (though it's nearly drowned in obtrusive strings), and it makes a case for SOLEFALD as a strong, progressive voice in underground music. Unfortunately, most of the rest of "Red For Fire" falls far short of this song's standard, leaving the record ultimately as a nice-sounding, somewhat rote exercise, devoid of interest or meaning.

Perhaps they're in too many side projects, maybe they just weren't all that spectacular to begin with, but SOLEFALD are, as of this album, still maddeningly inconsistent. "Red For Fire" will be of interest only to those who simply must be in on every post-black metal experience, or those who don't mind wading through minutes of overcooked, pretentious, and dreary pseudo-prog to get to the good stuff in the middle.


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