Icelandic atmospheric rock / metal band Sólstafir are currently part-way through an extensive 31-date tour of Europe, which brings them to the UK and Ireland just before Christmas. Strangely enough the band’s UK-leg of the tour does not include a London date (this must be how the rest of the country feels when a band announces a “UK tour” that is just one show in London) but the Oslo date happened to fall on a Friday night, which seemed like the perfect excuse for a weekend away!
Although I have photographed Tons of Rock festival in Norway for the past four years, I have never attended a regular gig in Oslo before, so it was really great to check out one of my favourite bands in a brand new setting. Doors were at the relatively late time of 8pm, but that did mean we got to eat dinner at a reasonable time before the gig, as opposed to by usual shove-a-sandwich-in-my-face-on-the-train-after-work-enroute-to-the-gig.
There were already a good number of people in the 950-capacity room by the time Swedish singer/songwriter Louise Lemón took to the stage at around 8:30pm. I saw Louise Lemón play The Black Heart back in September and really enjoyed her sound, which I would describe as Nordic soul with a dark, gothic twist. Louise and her band opened their set with “Shipwreck” from her debut album Purge, which was released in April 2018. She played a short but sweet set featuring other tracks from Purge, including one of my personal favourites; “178”, as well as her most recent single “Not Enough” which was released in November. Her set seemed to go down well with the Norwegian crowd and I would say that she was a fitting choice as first support.
Next to hit the stage were Icelandic indie-folk/rock band Árstíðir, who I saw back in November 2017 when they supported Sólstafir at Heaven in London. I always find Árstíðir’s music mesmerising and very relaxing to listen to, and their distinctive vocal harmonies are simply beautiful. Their on-stage line-up included a cello which added a lovely depth to their sound. Part-way through their set, keyboardist Ragnar Ólafsson told the crowd that the weather had been particularly bad in Iceland this year…so much so that they had released two albums – Nivalis in June, and Garðurinn minn in November! Their set was fantastic and featured not only tracks such as “Mute” and “Passion” from Nivalis, but also “Things You Said” from their 2017 album Hvel, and they ended their set with “Shades” from their 2011 album Svefns Og Vöku Skil.
At around 10pm, Sólstafir took to the stage, to the delight of the now-packed room. Prior to the tour, the band announced that they would be playing some of their older material on this tour, so it was great to hear tracks such as “Köld” from their 2009 album of the same name, and “Ljósfari” from Masterpiece of Bitterness. Of course, tracks such as “Hula” and “Ísafold” from the band’s most recent album Berdreyminn were also included in their set, as well as “Ótta” from their 2014 album of the same name, and fan-favourite “Fjara” from Svartir Sandar. Guitarist and vocalist Addi was as animated as usual; coming right up to the front row of the crowd to play his Flying V in their faces (much to their delight). Every member of the band looked like they were thoroughly enjoying themselves. Ragnar Ólafsson from Árstíðir joined the band on stage on keys, and for the final few songs of their set Sólstafir were also joined by Icelandic singer-songwriter Ragnar Zolberg, who took over on bass during the band’s October tour of North America supporting Paradise Lost while Svavar had personal commitments at home. Sólstafir ended their set with an epic rendition of “Goddess of the Ages” that had everyone in the room cheering for more. A thoroughly enjoyable evening, and I was very glad that I had made the trip. Sólstafir will bring their tour to the UK and Ireland later this month. Full tour-dates can be found below:
- 17 December – The Fleece, Bristol
- 18 December – Hare & Hounds, Birmingham
- 19 December – Deaf Institute, Manchester
- 20 December – Classic Grand, Glasgow
- 21 December – Limelight 2, Belfast
- 22 December – Voodoo Lounge, Dublin
Pics by Katie Frost Photography
- 78 Days in the Desert
- Svartir Sandar
- Goddess of the Ages