What a perfect pre-Christmas shindig, seeing Iceland’s finest post-metal band Sólstafir playing to a sold out Manchester crowd at the Deaf Institute.
Opening this wondrous evening are TALONS, cramming six band members onto the stage, almost eclipsing that iconic red curtain. The sextet provide an electrifying atmosphere from the very start. With an emphasis on powerful pounding grooves, harmonious guitars, and of course the use of two duelling violinists. Talons’ approach to post-rock thinks outside the box. They manage to take the best moments of bands like Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and Mogwai, but with much more immediate compositions, fitting comfortably into a 30 minute support slot. Rather than lulling listeners into patient build-ups, Talons go gung-ho from the very start, whilst still managing to create dynamic textures and epic riffs. The way the violinists change up between strong lead melodies and eerie discordance is exquisite, very much making them the leading focus of these stunning instrumentals. And to top it off, they’re really heavy and loud, commanding the attention of the audience and delivering a knock out opening set.
Following Talons are Essex post-metal quartet TELEPATHY, who also boast a truly epic sound. With the ballsiest and heaviest, most gut-punching sound of the night, Telepathy tease and tantalise, with riffs that build and build in their majesty and intensity. This instrumental quartet’s sound lays somewhere between Pelican and Downfall Of Gaia. Their stage presence is fierce and commanding, even when things don’t go their way. Halfway into the first song, the drummer is hit with a broken snare. The rest of the band pick up on this and expertly cover without breaking a sweat, as drummer Albert Turek masterfully adjusts the song to work without snare. This shows just how tight Telepathy have become; a band with plenty to prove.
You wouldn’t think it was a week before Christmas, as the Deaf Institute was pretty boiling by the time Icelandic post-metallers Sólstafir come on stage. Looking cool and confident, their icy atmospheric sound couldn’t stop a sold out crowd from breaking a sweat. Solstifir play with supreme confidence tonight, owning the crowd in the palms of their hands. Their setlist is broken up into three different types of sounds; the older heavier and slightly faster material, the slower atmospheric post-rock inspired sounds of their new material, and some straight up hard rock numbers. It’s hard for the crowd to take their eyes off the band, who play with so much passion tonight. Sólstafir truly know how to throw a party, with such a fun and blissful energy, and a huge, dynamic sound. They look like they’re revelling in every moment. Guitarist and vocalist Aðalbjörn Tryggvason really connects with the crowd. His voice is soaring, filling the room with some brave high notes. He delivers an incredibly profound and heartfelt speech about the importance of talking about mental health issues, before finishing on the lengthy jam ‘The Black Mountain’. But outside of this rare moment of serenity, Solstifir are all about throwing a great Christmas party, with Tryggvason even dancing and getting involved with the audience. He ends the set atop the bar counter, singing and taking selfies with crowd-goers, as an impromptu mosh-pit breaks out. Not only is Solstifir’s passionate and well crafted musicianship excellent, but their wild energy and outrageous showmanship truly leads to an unforgettable live show.
Words by Chris “Frenchie” French