Sólstafir is one of the most interesting of Icelandic bands playing metal. Their music has an amazing sound which consists mainly of emotions and unique atmosphere.
Recently we have introduced our review of the new album called “Ótta” by Sólstafir.
“Ótta” is a masterpiece that deserves the classic metal album status. Listen to the album and see for themselves about it!
See what Guðmundur Óli Pálmason (drummer) has to say about the band and their music in our interview below.
Marcin: First of all I congratulate such a great new album. Excellent work!
Guðmundur Óli Pálmason: Thank you! We are so grateful for how well the album has been received.
Marcin: How does it feel to have a beautiful album released?
Guðmundur Óli Pálmason: It feels great. We are proud of the end result and it’s great to let the world hear it finally. We completed the recordings in January, and then came a long, slow process of mastering, making the album cover and doing promotion. So it’s kind a like holding your breath for half a year and finally being allowed to breathe again.
Marcin: You play together for 20 years. What have been the most memorable periods in Sólstafir‘s artistic life?
Guðmundur Óli Pálmason: There are so many memorable moments from working in studios, touring, playing huge festivals, small festivals, playing on a cruise ship in the Caribbean on it’s way to the Bahamas, traveling in Iceland in the dead of winter to play for 20 people in a town so isolated you’ve never even heard about it. There are so many memories it would be material for a whole book.
Marcin: What are the origins of the band name? Who invented it and why did you choose this name?
Guðmundur Óli Pálmason: The idea came from our original bassplayer Halldór Einarsson back when we started. It was either Sólstafir or something stupid like Satanic Goat. I’m glad we chose Sólstafir haha.
Marcin: Solstafir’s sounds changes a bit from album to album. Is it a normal process for you? Is this transmutation controlled or totally uncontrolled?
Guðmundur Óli Pálmason: We try never to write the same song twice, so I want to say that we change from song to song. Although we are conscious of not repeating ourselves we also never force the music out. Sometimes we think more of our selves as a conduit for the music that is out there, or should I say in here, and wants to come out. We just play whatever comes out. There are no rules and there are no preconceived ideas about how it should sound.
Marcin: Besides all changes… what is a core of your music that you would like to have unchanged through the next works?
Guðmundur Óli Pálmason: The feeling and the honesty of the music.
Marcin: What kind of feelings do you aim to express through Sólstafir?
Guðmundur Óli Pálmason: Our own feelings, that’s what makes it honest. The love of life, the fear of death, the fear of love and the death of fear. Living, loving, losing and letting go but seeing hope.
Marcin: What are your main music influences?
Guðmundur Óli Pálmason: Basically I could copy paste my previous answer. But besides that we all listen to a wide variety of music, both individually and as a group of persons with different tastes, from Duran Duran to Darkthrone.
Marcin: Where do you look for the inspiration to creating new songs? Please tell me what sources you draw upon to inspire you when writing the music?
Guðmundur Óli Pálmason: Personal experiences mostly. Everything we see, hear, do and feel influences us in some way. Some of those influences are trivial, some deep but sub conscious and others we use as direct inspiration for our own creations.
Marcin: Tell me about the creation of “Ótta” album – how did the writing process and recording session go?
Guðmundur Óli Pálmason: We wrote “Ótta” in a very similar way we wrote “Svartir Sandar” before it. We locked ourselves in the rehearsal room from 10am to 5pm almost every day for about 3 months before entering the studio. We had most of the songs about 80% ready by that time. We stayed in the studio for a better part of two months in December and January.
Marcin: Do you remember any unexpected situations (funny or not) during the working process? Or any special moments during the recording session?
Guðmundur Óli Pálmason: There weren’t really any unexpected occurrences during the working progress this time, which is really the first for us. It just went unbelievably smooth. But there were still some special moments like when the Amiina girls played the strings and Hrafn from Ensími (ex-Jet Black Joe) blasted the Hammond organ.
Marcin: Were there any difficulties with incarnating your creative ideas during the creation of this album?
Guðmundur Óli Pálmason: No not really. Some songs are easier to write than others, but all of them somehow found their own way, so to speak. If we ran into a creative wall, we put whatever song we were working on at that moment on ice and came back to it later with fresh ideas.
Marcin: On the new album we can hear the sounds of the banjo. Whether there will be more unusual instruments or electronic components in your music in the future?
Guðmundur Óli Pálmason: None of us has any idea how our music will evolve in the future, but I think it is safe to say we will keep experimenting, both with the songs themselves and yes the instrumentation.
Marcin: Did you listen to any bands or artists at the time when you prepare to record an album?
Guðmundur Óli Pálmason: We all listen to so much and varied music all the time. But personally I wanted this album to be our „The Nephilim” (Fields of the Nephilim’s brakethrough album).
Marcin: I know that the main concept of “Ótta“ is Eykt. What it means for you and why did you choose this title and this main?
Guðmundur Óli Pálmason: When guitarist Sæþór Maríus brought this old Icelandic way of time keeping to our attention we knew it would make for a great theme to build around. „Ótta” was really the only of the Eyktir that we considered as a title for the album.
Marcin: The lyrics on “Ótta” album are in Icelandic. This language sounds very mysterious and extremely. What does it mean to you to sing in your native tongue?
Guðmundur Óli Pálmason: I think it comes more from the heart when you express yourself in your own tongue. Too bad 99% of our fans won’t understand the lyrics ’cause I think they are quite deep and well written if I say so myself. We put a lot of work into them.
Marcin: I agree that most people outside of Iceland doesn’t know what you sing. What are the songs about? Please tell about the subjects of the lyrics from the album – track by track.
Guðmundur Óli Pálmason:
“Lágnætti” is Addi’s lyric, but my interpretation of it is that it’s about letting go and saying goodbye.
“Ótta” is also Addi’s lyric so again this is my interpretation but I feel it’s about making the wrong choice somehow and/or being in a bad situation because of your own wrong choices.
“Rismál” is about that feeling when you’ve maybe had a little bit too much to drink and you end up all alone somewhere on a gloomy winter night and your only companion is Bacchus.
“Dagmál” was written about our good friend and sister Marianne Séjourné who passed away two months before we wrote the album. But it’s also about finding your way home and meeting again some other time. The album is also dedicated to her.
“Miðdegi” is again about our friend Bacchus, but this time in a more positive light than in “Rismál”. You could say it’s almost about partying with a group of friends from mid day until the morning rises again, soaring on the wings of Bacchus.
“Nón” was for me the hardest lyric to write. It’s about the unsetting of winter, and the coming of night. Like with all the other lyrics (at least the 4 I wrote) it ties in with the theme of the album be describing the moods of that period of time, but in my mind that period of time doesn’t have to be the time of day, it can also be that time of life. You start life out at midnight and then later the sun rises as you grow up and you go through a sunny day until again the sun starts to set on your life. These things even get a mention in the lyrics with phrases like „it’s hard to hold on to life’s summer-nón” meaning that it’s hard to hold on to your best of days.
“Miðaftan” is again Addi’s lyric. It’s about coming back home after a long journey over the sea of sin, and being swallowed by a huge black wave of sin. This one is my favorite lyric by Addi, I think it’s very personal and honest from his point, and very emotional.
“Náttmál” is also Addi’s lyric. I’ve found this one hardest to interpret but I think it’s again about making the wrong choices and going the wrong way but somehow correcting it and looking to a brighter future.
Marcin: The picture on album cover is awesome and very distinctive and suggestive. Who is the author of this picture and how does it connect with the music? What’s the story behind that? Tell me more about the cover artwork because it’s an amazing and beautiful art.
Guðmundur Óli Pálmason: All the photos on the album are by the Icelandic photographer Ragnar Axelsson (RAX). He’s been a favorite of ours for years, I even wrote papers about him when I was studying photography myself. We’ve been wanting to use his work since before Köld, but never dared to ask. Then we got to know him personally as he shot us for a newspaper he works for and we were just stunned by what a super nice person and all around great guy he is. The man on the cover is an old Icelandic farmer whom Rax became a friend of. He shot that photo on the Reynisfjara beach, which was partly his property. He passed away a year or two ago.
Marcin: In my opinion “Ótta” is mostly emotions and unique atmosphere? What do you think?
Guðmundur Óli Pálmason: I agree 😉
Marcin: How can you describe the sounds and the music from “Ótta” album? How does it differ from the previous albums?
Guðmundur Óli Pálmason: I think “Ótta” as an album is much more solid as a whole than our previous work. I’m glad that critics and fans seem to understand this as well. I’m pleasantly surprised that people still have the attention span to listen to a whole album, not just half a song on youtube.
Marcin: What is the most important effect music has for you? Which feeling would you like to give you listeners?
Guðmundur Óli Pálmason: I think it’s that feeling of bitter sweet loss, longing for better times, but at the end strong hope. Where do you go when you’re down? You go up! That’s why we’re not a doom band, and our music isn’t depressing in my opinion, sure it’s melancholic, but there is hope in melancholy.
Marcin: Which the song from the album is the most important for you?
Guðmundur Óli Pálmason: All of them. This album is the most important album we’ve done in our career for so many reasons.
Marcin: What inspired you to compose this songs?
Guðmundur Óli Pálmason: Our need to create, our need to express our selves, the need to get things out of your system.
Marcin: Do you have a plan to shoot a new video and any ideas for a screenplay? And which song?
Guðmundur Óli Pálmason: Yes, I won’t say to much now except it’s by the same team that did the “Fjara” video (Bowen Staines and Gunnar „Sir Gussi” Guðbjörnsson). It will be ready in just a few days, so stay tuned!
Marcin: What is your Top-5 of most authoritative metal band currently?
Guðmundur Óli Pálmason: That’s a hard one ’cause I don’t listen so much to metal, at least not the kind that’s purely metal. I’m more into bands like Swans, Fields of the Nephilim, Anathema, Strigaskór Nr.42, Kontinuum etc..
Marcin: What are the necessary components and moods of a good metal album in your opinion?
Guðmundur Óli Pálmason: Again, hard to say, it depends on what you call metal and what kind of metal and what you want from it. It can be the groove like on Entombed’s “Wolverine Blues”, the cold aggression of Immortal’s “Pure Holocaust”, the darkness of Triptycon etc… it all depends on the right mood for the right circumstances.
Marcin: Do you know something about Polish metal scene? Do you know any Polish bands?
Guðmundur Óli Pálmason: I know Poland has a lot of world class death metal bands like Vader and Decapitated and death/black metal like Behemoth, but I hope there is room for a softer band like us in the heart of Polish metal fans as well.
Marcin: What would you say to your fans in Poland?
Guðmundur Óli Pálmason: We are super excited to return to Poland. The only time we’ve been there before there was so much snow that the trains didn’t run and a lot of people missed our show. Since then we’ve had so many requests from Polish fans to return. See you soon brothers and sisters in Poland!
Marcin: Thank you very much for this interview and see you soon in Poland!
Guðmundur Óli Pálmason: Thank you very much.