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Solstafir

In Summer 2014 Solstafir will present us a new album, but late last year Season of Mist re-released one of their first studio results. ‘I Blodi Og Anda’ shows the harsh, raucous early days of the band, before they got the wind in the sails with the amazing ‘Masterpiece Of Bitterness’. We got back in time with vocalist/guitarist Aðalbjörn Tryggvason and found out that the band had to face tremendous problems before any chances for recognition loomed up. This is an interview that illustrates the huge perseverance of this Icelandic band.

By: Vera | Archive under black metal

How are you doing, guys? Since we have a fine tradition of relishing every review of your albums with an interview, let us also focus on few questions about the re-release of ‘I Blodi Og Anda’…
We're doing pretty good, our new album is now recorded and mixed and should be out in the summer.

For a long time we considered ‘Masterpiece Of Bitterness’ as Solstafir’s proper debut album. What is the reason for that misunderstanding? Maybe we can consider it as ‘international debut’ at that time?
I guess it has something to do with that the label that released it went bankrupt shortly after the release, and the album itself was, and still is, kind of cursed. Even the trailer that was driving the CD’s out of the pressing plant had a car crash on the autobahn and 90% of the CD’s got shattered all over some German autobahn. We could write a book about what went wrong while making this album.

You were a three piece at that time, isn’t it? When did you decide you expand the band to four musicians?
It wasn’t until our first gig, in Reykjavík in 1999, that we added a second guitar, only for the live show. Gringo is still here with us, playing that second guitar. It's been quite a long tryout, but we still haven’t decided if he's fully in the band or not. Guess we'll go a few more years with, and then have a word with him.

When trying to put yourself in a state of mind of that time, what about the vibe in the band around the time of ‘I Blodi Og Anda’?
‘Til Valhallar’, our debut release MCD came out in '97, on View Beyond Records, a Czech label, but there was no record contract, we were with a label, and back then, bands were not releasing albums on their own. So we went thru quite many contacts, having close calls to sign to some labels, but nothing came thru in those matters. We did the '97 promo and another on in '98, being deep into the underground tape trading. It was basically just me and Gummi, since our former bass player had left the band, and we had no replacement yet. Then we came in touch with Ars Metalli in '99. They seemed like a very cool label, and paid a lot of money for the studio, at least that's how things looked back then. During the recording session of the album we found Svavar, and he basically joined the band while we were recording the album.

Of course as you just said, you did some demos and EPs before ‘I Blodi Og Anda’, but I can imagine that recording your first full length album gives a kind of excitement. What can you tell about the recording process of the album? Was it a hectic experience or just an interesting learning process? How do you look back at it?
It was terrible from day one. Gummi broke his arm, there was a break in into the studio, stuff got stolen, the adat recorder ate the tape, the producer went thru a divorce, and the label owner had a sex change operation. Every day stuff.

The first part of the album includes the harshest songs, with ferocious screaming vocals. Do I even hear a kind of punk attitude in some of the songs or am I completely wrong?
Yeah, I cannot remember why we did that, today I don’t think that was such a good idea.

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With ‘Ei Vid Monum Idrast’ we come to the lengthy tracks with more possibilities to show the other skills of Solstafir. What was important for you when writing longer, epic tracks? Maybe you like to mention some influences/bands/music that inspired you in the first place to experiment?
We got into Fields Of The Nephilim right before the album, so that influence was rather strong. The second half of the album shows that. Same goes with The Mission; the piano part in that song comes from The Mission covering John Lennon’s ‘Love’. Fade in and out ideas.

In ‘Bitch In Black’ we also hear guest vocals from Kola Krauze of Dark Heresy. That’s when the sublime contrast between clean and harsh vocals entered your sound. Can you tell a bit more about the guest vocalist and about this track?
Kola was living in Iceland back in '97 when we did that promo, and we got to know him thru the metal underground. We had this one song that I hadn’t done any vocals in, so that seemed like a good idea having him doing guest vocals. He wrote the lyric about this wife, girlfriend at the time. I was far away from the idea of actually singing at that time, so we thought it was a great idea to be able to have some real singing going on, I guess Carl McCoy and co played a big part in that as well.

What intrigues me in ‘I Viking’ is the proclaiming voice of the sample. I could find out that it is taken from a movie. Well, can you tell something more about that and does the sample or the movie refers to the theme of this song?
It is from the movie ‘The Flight Of The Raven’. The samples were not on the demo, the idea came afterwards. So we went to the local video rental store and rented the VHS, and stole the audio from it. I'm still waiting for someone to take us to court over it. It's basically the coolest parts of the dialogue from this cult Viking movie, ‘Hrafninn Flýgur’.

Even female vocals entered the Solstafir universe, more precisely in the last track (which is an amazing composition, by the way). Who is Hulda “Dula” and why did female vocals fit into this track?
She was a friend of Svavar’s, I guess the idea came from Therion. We were quite into Therion at the time and of course Paradise Lost and Celtic Frost as well.

How was the album received when it was first released? Did you reach some new fan bases with it? Did it open the road to further activities in a way?
It got great reviews; that's what I remember. But we never toured after it, like we always imagined doing. Somehow, no, it didn’t really open many new doors, cause we were struggling to get a new deal after that album, and we borrowed a studio from friends of ours after it, doing the next album, not knowing if we could ever pay them, cause no label was really showing any interest. That album became ‘Masterpiece Of Bitterness’.

I know that you have just finished the new album, so let us occlude with the question: can you lift a tip of the veil about your new work? When will it be released?
It's coming out in the summer 2014. Same as always: heavy stuff, soft stuff, long songs, shorter songs. Well maybe the softer stuff is getting softer, and the heavy stuff less heavy, and the scream-like vocals less scream-like. But we just do what we do. We're basically just slaves of whatever possesses our minds at each given time.

Thanks for this interview. Talk to you soon when the new album will be released!

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