When we spoke to Cornelius about plans for a new album the follow up to 2010 release ‘Norrøn livskunst’ he told us “I’m not going to tell you anything about the album! I can give you the title, ‘Kosmopolis’ with a K. We will try to get it out in Spring 2014.” Well a bit late and this would also not appear to be that album but more of a lead up to it in the form of an EP which is “an experimental soundtrack to the fjords and mountains of Norway, and a hymn to the nature of the North” I suppose hymns can be quite depressing and as I have found playing this and trying to get beneath it that is certainly the case here. It has a sort of constant melody flowing through it all and this is depressive, gloomy and quite doomy so be prepared for that rather than the bang and slam of Solefald in their more out there and metallic sounding stance. In fact it never really touches that side of things being somewhat more of a neo-folk affair with even some world music flavours to it.
Things start with epic 11 minute track ‘Norrønaprogen’ All the lyrics are sung in the band’s mother tongue but are quite versatile in approach with not just Cornelius and Lars singing but also female vocals joining in as well as those powerful clean harmonic croons in the background. I said it is fairly sombre but at odds on this first number is a sudden lightning of mood with a jaunty progressive flourish running through things. Strings in the form of the Hardanger fiddle are used a bit as well as the more obvious strum of the guitar and it’s quite comparable at times to the likes of Dornereich and even Vintersorg in both melody and approach. Naturally the problem as a listener is the feeling that I am not getting the whole story as it is in a language I can’t understand so I am not so sure it is going to appeal to non-High Norwegian speakers unless they are already fans and are used to imbibing in the sounds of Solefald. There are some spoken ‘skaldic’ vocals employed on this courtesy of Einar Kvitrafn Selvik of Wardruna and they really draw you into things, language barriers aside. The gentle female vocals contrasting the austere male spoken parts on Icelandic Odyssey IV ‘Det Siste Landskap’ really work their magic and draw emphasis. There are some electronic parts here and things even border on trip-hop making it a really intriguing mix of sounds. Apparently this one was written during a bumpy jeep ride with Solstafir in the Icelandic wilderness, which really puts a strong image in the mind when listening to it.
The second side (as such) sees the main Norrønaprogen given the remix treatment courtesy of Sturmgeist & The Fall Of Rome. Considering Sturmgeist is as far as I am aware basically Cornelius you can read into that as you want. ‘Norrøna: Ljodet Som Ljoma’ as this version is called has got more of an electronic feel to it as it builds and broods with spoken vocals becoming more forceful and strident. It would appear that partly responsible for some of the sonic delivery on this is none other than Svein Egil Hatlevik Mr Zweiss himself. Finishing this off is Songen: Vargen, which goes into a Dead Can Dance etched piece full of mystery and intrigue and quite mesmerising due to the sound of fiddle, bells and mystical vocals. It’s a bit of a trip to finish on and leaves you really swaying in its heady grip.
I have to admit that on first listen my thoughts were what on earth are Solefald doing? The next couple had it going over my head and then things began to sink in. It was only thanks to finding some information to help set the scene on the bands homepage that this really started making sense and had me cursing the label for not including any information the one time that it was really necessary to do so. I still think this is a release that will be a bit too dense and obtuse to all but those who have followed the band through their career and is very much the case of a band doing things exactly on their own terms. Thankfully I really have got into it and found it a consummate piece of music which has left me even more keenly looking forward to the full length Kosmopolis Sud
(7.5/10 Pete Woods)