Otta is the latest release from Icelandic atmospheric rock act Solstafir, and follows their adventurous double length album Svartir Sandar from 2011. Season of Mist always seem to have a pretty eclectic roster, and Solstafir are no exceptions, a band that really dares you to try and put a tag on them. 'Atmospheric rock' sort of fits...sort of, but there are elements of melancholy post rock, some prog, a touch of doom, as well as some gothic flavors. Otta is a densely textured affair, highly melodic, but in no way shape or form an upbeat or uplifting collection of songs. Tracks like "Lágnætti" and "Otta" float along dreamily, with lilting guitar chords and emotional vocals (sung in their native language) lulling the listener into a trance-like state. While "Miðdegi" is more of a heavy rocker, it's one of the few tracks that chug along and most closely tips the richter scale into 'metal' realms. Despite the solemn nature of much of the material on display, most of it is quite, dare I say, 'lovely', like the poignant "Rismál" and the powerful, near 8-minute "Nón", which is like a cross between Anathema, Primordial, and My Dying Bride. For most, the highlight will no doubt be the epic closer "Náttmál", a highly textured piece jam packed with emotional vocals, rumbling guitar & bass riffs, chilling keyboards, and ominous atmosphere.
Though for some, the Icelandic vocals might be somewhat of a barrier, but Aðalbjörn Tryggvason most certainly can sing, so give him a chance to pull you in. I would have liked a little more variety on some of the tempos here, but overall this is pretty powerful & emotional stuff from a band that's really trying to do something different, and you have to give them kudos for that.