IIII, the fourth studio album from the Copenhagen-based Black Metal band Solbrud, is initially tantalisingly vague in its title. But it becomes enticingly compelling when you realise the reason for this vagueness compared to their past album names.
Solbrud – IIII (Vendetta Records)
Release Date: 2 February 2024 (Vendetta Records)
Words: Jools Green
With IIII, Solbrud have taken a different route compared to their previous method of composing, arranging, and filtering the music. In the past, it has been a collective collaboration from start to finish. This time, they decided that the four members should each individually compose music and write lyrics for one vinyl side each, with all tracks recorded by the band, thereby expanding the musical palette even further.
The meaning of IIII also has reoccurring themes surrounding the number: four members, four vinyl sides and their fourth studio album. Also, the four classical elements, Wind, Water, Earth and Fire, are reflected in the compositions. Each vinyl side and each member’s compositions represent one element each.
IIII is a task that has proven inspiring and exciting for each individual Solbrud member but, at the same time, very time and energy-consuming. The band started the recording way back in 2021, so the composition began way before that.
This ambitious double album release will prove to be, for both the new listener or fans of their past works, a hugely engaging and rewarding, well varied and atmospheric offering. You won’t be disappointed by the individual and collective efforts here. It’s as alluringly atmospheric as their past offerings have proven to be.
With IIII, Solbrud maintain their reputation as a band that plays epic Black Metal with long compositions, the eleven tracks spanning a whopping ninety-four minutes. The opener and longest track, Hvile, spans over seventeen and a half minutes, which makes it, in many ways, an impressive opener.
Initially clean and reflective, there is a storm soundbite, which helps to develop the initial atmosphere of the piece. The instrumentation builds in layered increments, with the arrival of the vocals adding further layers. Hvile then changes direction, developing further complexity and a greater degree of ebb and build. The soaring, blackened, superbly protracted vocal screams develop an echo which adds further atmosphere, closing gradually with the return of storm and sparse, clean guitars.
The next piece, Tåge, has a more traditional, driving Black Metal sound to the riffs, punctuated by the acidic protracted vocal delivery. Again, it is hugely haunting, reflective and atmospheric, particularly when the strong melodic element courses above everything else. It maintains that engaging ebb and build, developing a faster, intense sound towards the close, then a sudden and dramatic fade out.
The second side of album one is a four-part offering. Firstly, Når Solen Brydes – Del I: En Undring Vækkes I Mit Sind, a brief, sparsely instrumented piece of precise, clean guitar notes. It’s a reflective instrumental which sets the scene for the second part, Når Solen Brydes – Del II: Mod Afgrundens Flammehav, which opens, in complete contrast, on an erupting storm.
It couldn’t be more dramatic or powerful, with intense driving riffs and pounding drum work. The vocals tear through with a tormented strength. In this huge wall of sound, a burst of distant lead work erupts in the background, dropping back to a series of dramatic pauses midway through, briefly moving to a more reflective mood. With the sounds of waves, sparse guitar notes and keyboards, even when it pares back in pace, a strong sense of power remains.
The intense drive returns towards the close with clean vocal harmonies coursing over the top, adding to the atmosphere along with punchy riffs and dramatic soaring leadwork. I love the intense, engulfing quality of this track, my favourite track of the album.
Når Solen Brydes – Del III: For Evigt – For Altid – Forandret is reflective and atmospheric to open, breaking into a slow blackened plod that is deceptively powerful and movingly atmospheric, with superbly protracted vocals again. An atmospheric drop away midway allows for an expansive, beautifully emotive swathe of melodic leadwork that becomes a prominent and welcome feature of the second half. This makes such a superb contrast against the raw vocal delivery.
The final piece of this collection of four tracks, Når Solen Brydes – Del IIII: En Ny Tid For Mig Star, is again an instrumental that reflects the simplicity of Når Solen Brydes – Del I: En undring Vækkes I Mit Sind. It has the addition of a blackened, repeating but varied melody coursing subtly through its duration.
Ædelråd sees the return of the epic-length tracks. This sixteen-minute offering is a slow builder. Distorted guitars build gradually into an ever-growing blackened wave of sound, punctuated with piercing acidic vocals, eventually plummeting away to clean reflective guitar notes that, at times, have an eerie quality.
It pans out to a superb swathe of very haunting leadwork before building back up to that blackened wave of sound fluidly after the leadwork, the vocals becoming more urgent in their delivery. A fascinating track that repeatedly ebbs and builds with thrilling unpredictability, with wonderfully strange segments in the quieter moments, making it a hugely engaging listen.
Sjæleskrig takes on an eerily melodic rock style on the opening guitarwork, becoming sparsely and precisely punctuated with individual guitar notes and drum beats that give a very reflective feel. You are suddenly pulled out of your dreamy stupor as the sound condenses and builds, and a soul-ripping scream cuts through you. It develops a mournful melodic quality as it journeys on, again superbly phrased in terms of ebb and build for maximum impact. I love the dark, bleak quality to this piece; it’s a very cathartic listen.
The reflectively atmospheric open of En Ild Som Tusind Sole rapidly turns blackened. The tortuous vocals and screams are delivered with a slight echo, adding an eerie atmosphere. The reflectively atmospheric aspect returns briefly, but predominantly, you get a superb wave of undulating black riffing. Considering it’s a ten-minute offering, it is pretty full on for most of its duration. A sublime assault on the senses that I like immensely.
Aske pares back considerably on the pace and intensity of its predecessor initially, very sparse and reflective, but soon breaking into a driving wall of riffs. Like its predecessor, it is predominantly a very intense and powerful piece with a superbly expressive vocal delivery, particularly the screams and howls, which give you a wonderful icy shudder down your spine. It takes on a brief, clean, reflective moment just after midway and a melodic break towards the close, but mostly, it takes a classically black route.
The final piece, Postludium, is an instrumental piece that reflects the wonderfully hypnotic repeating simplicity of En Ild Som Tusind Sole, but with an intense wave of riffs coursing above, which get higher and higher as the track progresses, fading quickly at the close, back to the simple repeat notes.
Solbrud – IIII – will be available as a double vinyl, double CD and double cassette. If you like your Black Metal atmospheric and thought-provoking, you’ll love this album.