Following a short run of UK dates back in in June which saw them play a teeny-tiny show at The Old Blue Last in London , Sólstafir returned to London on Friday night to play a one-off show amidst their mammoth 34-date European tour.
Tonight they brought with them fellow Icelanders Árstíðir and Danish artist Myrkur. Being a Friday night there was a club-night following the show so times were all a bit earlier than originally advertised, but that didn’t stop a queue from forming around the block and the venue from filling up right from the start.
First on stage were Icelandic indie-folk-rock four-piece Árstíðir (meaning “seasons” in English). Formed in 2008, the band quickly found success in their native Iceland, but became known to a wider international audience in 2013 when a YouTube video of an impromptu acapella performance of 13th-century Icelandic hymn “Heyr himna smiður” at a German train station went viral. Tonight the trio (usually a five-piece) mesmerised the crowd with their distinctive sweeping vocal harmonies backed by lush layered orchestral instrumental arrangements, playing tracks from their three full-length records Árstíðir (2009), Svefns og vöku skil (2011) and Hvel (2015), and they even treated us to “a song we only usually perform in German train stations”. It was a great start to an evening of atmospheric Scandinavian / Icelandic metal.
Next to take to the stage was Myrkur. This unique artist had been on my radar for a few months when I finally got to see her live at Tons of Rock festival back in June. Danish one-woman classically-trained multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Amalie Bruun combines elements of black metal with natural, ethereal sounds to create a sound that is truly unique. Myrkur means “darkness” in Icelandic, and that certainly comes across in her music, which manages to be not only delicate and feminine but also dark and brutal. Myrkur sites her influences as coming from traditional Scandinavian folklore as well as the powerful women in Norse mythology who “have an element of beauty and mystique, but […] are also deadly.” Sweeping across the stage like a woodland fairy, Myrkur mesmerised the packed crowd with her vocal talents, playing tracks from her first debut album M (2015) and plus her latest album Mareridt (meaning “Nightmare”).
Taking to the stage at around 8.30pm were the main headliners for the evening – Icelandic atmospheric metal quartet Sólstafir. When the band last played London it was at the tiny 150-capacity Old Blue Last. Tonight’s venue was around ten times larger and just as packed. Sadly (for people living in other parts of the country) this was their only UK date of the tour. Hopefully they will return to play more shows up and down the UK soon – perhaps something similar to their 2016 show at Islington Assembly Hall where they played their 2014 album Ótta in full, accompanied by a string quartet – what a beautiful show that was!
At their last London show back in June they treated us to a few tracks from their recently-released sixth studio album Berdreyminn, and it was great to hear further tracks such as “Hula” for the first time tonight. Of course they also played some fan-favourites including “Ótta”, “Fjara” and – one I don’t think I have heard them play live before – “Köld”. Frontman Addi was charismatic as ever and the band, joined by Ragnar Ólafsson from Árstíðir on keys, played a great set to a very-nearly-sold-out venue. Sólstafir ended their set with “Goddess of the Ages” the band took a gracious bow and left the stage. Another fantastic show. I hope they will return soon!
Sólstafir Set List:
- Goddess of the Ages