First impressions are everything, especially when you do not know what you’re getting yourself into. I have never really submitted myself to black metal, let alone paid attention to the scene itself, as it seems the techniques and appeal are purely acquired over investment. Simply put, the genre as a whole has never really stuck to me like it should have, and the entire context seldom bore any relevance to my situation or perspective. All one could do from my position is merely appreciate the chaos, and often predictable traits, while quickly move along onto that which seems instantly gratifying. Nevertheless, after having a staid number of listens to Vinterbris’ sophomore Solace, I could not have been more of a fool to feel and think this way. With immense ambiance and subtle tricks, these Norwegians have indeed done their homework, not in-line with the genre’s expectations, but with that which sings through instrumentation. Who’d ever thought that amidst the barrage of tremolo, blasts and shrieks, an unsullied take on the genre could emerge; catchy and sleek from beginning to end?
On the note of first impressions again, Solace gives hints of mid-2000 Opeth on top of a horseless Moonsorrow, and while even such a reference of the overall feeling could be a serious faux pas, you have to acknowledge the influence from a multitude of established acts. However, this is not an issue at all as they do not botch up that which leads this album forward, and from the word go the listener is hit with a dark yet warming volley of well-time and smooth guitar work.
It is fair to note that it is a guitar-driven album. Now, do not take this as a sign of mindless shredding, which would topple any attendance of thoughtful licks and melodies. This band has without a doubt been placed under serious care when it comes to the structure. The relentless running of simple yet tasteful guitar work and the absence of obscene wankery has actually attracted more attention to the overall atmosphere each song creates. Also, I dread the thought of the band actually acquiring a keys player as the equilibrium of this album would have been obscured entirely. A track like “Fathoms” would have lost the catch and groove if a single layer had been placed on top of the flurry of melody, and the suaveness of “Euphoria” would have been dead in the water rather than alive with manageable majesty. What was created here is almost humbling, as many would deem brilliance over ‘technicality’. Vinterbris, while never too simple to lose its ‘atmospheric’ focus, just builds endless landscapes whereupon you lose yourself. Though such a feat would not have been possible without the low-end vibrations of some chic bass-work, unassumingly supporting the full course of excellent ideas.
Yet, when I took Solace for another spin, I could not help but feel a sense of disappointment in Rolstad’s drum presence. While unyielding and incredibly awakening, especially in “Euphoria” and “The Aurora of Despair”, he never moves out of his regimented roll of maintaining stability. This is not at all a setback, as his performance works with the bass to hold the entire the album together for the most part, but gaps in the backdrop of such a beautifully crafted, melodic barrage could have been enhanced with some creative fill-work. Likewise, a sort of nervous condition is found in the lead guitar department, though slightly puzzling when noticed. The leads on this album when found are spectacular; though they simply disappear before they even reach some sort of fulfillment. Some merely build and instantly die out sometimes, which is a tad anti-climatic. The initially noticeable leads unfortunately meet with sudden stagnancy; it is akin to getting me worked up and then suddenly returning to a verse riff that gives me a disappointing feeling of fucking in a dream. Nonetheless, this observation does not take anything away from the album’s strengths, and the superior production albeit model vocals, contributes to that which makes this album grand.
Glancing over the bands in the genre, it is difficult for a casual listener to discern the variations from grind-galore to pseudo-grandeur, but this is definitely not the case in Solace. What one finds here are tastes of folk elements filtered through a classic metal balance, with a powerfully sincere placement of the well-known chaotic pulse that is black metal. Moreover, one would expect the sound to be complimented by a salvo of orchestral essentials, but that would only serve as an injustice to the near sublime body of guitar work this album exhibits. From the dark acoustic preamble of “Dysphoria” to the bold epilogue that is “Euphoria”, we are taken on a journey between these two states. Vinterbris have created a narrative in sound, and this entire album lets the listener sit-back to sip easy on a half-full glass of well-written, melodic black metal.
2. Ash Light
4. The Aurora of Despair
5. Gazing at a Fallen Sky