Live Review : Sólstafir + Talons + Telepathy @ The Deaf Institute, Manchester on December 19th 2018

Sólstafir for me, are one of the most inventive and vibrant bands currently earning their crust playing Heavy Metal, so why are they yet again in one of Manchester’s most select venues (ie its smaller than my living room) is beyond me. But more ranting about the fact that a band of Sólstafir’s stature are playing in place that would give even the smallest cat a headache later. We have two support acts to look at first.

Talons are really interesting as they have not one but two fiddlers alongside the obligatory drummer, guitarist and bassist and they look, frankly, like they just wandered over from a physics lecture in the neighbouring building. What we get musically is something akin to New Model Army meets Mogwai, squealing fiddlers, ferocious and then quiet and then ferocious against the guitars duo background. It is emotive and immersive but it is not in anyway Metal and the slightly bewildered response from the audience proves that they are also struggling to work out what it is.

Telepathy stick much more to a tried and tested metallic template. Though without any vocals, they actually end up sounding in many parts like Metallica would if James’s voice was taken out of the mix. Telepathy produce meaty, heavy up-tempo doom. It has the bite and swagger of the aforementioned Metallica but then wanders off into more refelective places. A bit too postury and riffy to be Post Rock and a bit too twee and meloncolic and etherial to be all out metal. They end of falling between the two stools and never quite seem to end up in either camp. Very professional and a perfectly serviceable way to pass the time they however fail to truly move out of second gear.

Sólstafir own the room before they even appear, the crowd may be a little brain-fried after the the previous two acts but the heads bang, the arms reach out and the voices shriek for the leather clad cowboys from Reykjavík. Even with tonight’s confined surroundings and with an interesting set choice (title track ‘Otta’ is surprisingly the only song aired from the band’s most loved and revered album) Sólstafir are masterful. They don’t just play music, they paint sonic pictures in the air with soaring guitars and Aðalbjörn Tryggvason’s unworldly vocal delivery. He sings (mostly) in Icelandic with a performance full of emotion, heartbreak and passion. Tonight he owns the stage. As always, he sways, swoons and commands in a way that makes you realise that in his head he is playing Wembley stadium rather than the upstairs room of a trendy bar. There is not even a full house here tonight but Sólstafir manage to connect with every one in the room and we are taken on a magical journey through some epic icelandic tales (no song is under ten minutes), but the last word again has to be one of utter confusion, that a band this special, this endearing and musically beautiful is playing to under two hundred people. Criminal!

Words by Stewart Lucas
Photography by Johann Wierzbicki