Experimentation and avant-garde metal is what’s promised on this album by The Soundbyte, a project from Trond Engum out of Trondheim in Norway.

What I heard at first were ambient sounds and the depiction of a bleak space. The symphony is not sharp but it is expansive. Metal instruments add depth to the sombre piece “Fanfare”. This is followed by indistinct and obscure sounds. The sounds become more distinct but they’re still not clear. The odd tap of the drum and an angelic haunting voice make up an uncomfortable scene. The sound intensifies. The wavering voice sounds to be lost. “Descending” is like the sound of grey matter floating about in space, but the metal guitar provides continuity. Somewhere in the depths of “North” is a folk rhythm. This makes way for a panoply of loosely connected sounds. The atmosphere is dark. Vocally haunting again, it’s like the call of the dead. The album title “Solitary” is right. This is a single person experience. There is no interaction with any other human. “Lamentations” appropriately is depressing, engaging us in ambient gloom. There’s a post-rock type build up. Dark sonic waves fill the air. It’s too gloomy to reach any sort of high point. It doesn’t get any happier. A faint, lingering, high-pitched voice wafts above a dark drum beat. The progression is solemn. Like waves crashing on a shore, “Floating” has its pattern disturbed with strong sounds but above this it drifts along. This is taken a stage further with “Estranged”. The voice now seems to be floating in space. The only accompaniment is an industrial and cosmic soundscape. The ambiance gives way to the powerful rhythm of “Solitary”, the title track. The floating voice re-appears above the harsh and steady crust. Symphonic melancholy enters the scene before the first part is re-enacted. The powerful “Solitary” conjures up images of nightmares and chaotic worlds. It ends with a cry of pain.

This album comes out of a dark world. Deliberately dreary and depressing, Mr Engum’s experimental approach to music on “Solitary IV” does not result in an inspiring or greatly intriguing piece of music for me, but it is most certainly haunting and atmospheric.

(6/10 Andrew Doherty)