Originally written by K. Scott Ross.
What makes an EP? According to the powers that define albums for tracking sales, an EP is either an album that’s under 25 to 30 minutes or somewhere from 3 to 5 tracks, and maybe specifically four (this varies from UK to US definitions; if you care about the specifics, Google is your friend). This, of course, is a fine definition when it comes to pop music, where most songs are no more than 4 minutes long. In the heavy metal world, things get a little bit fuzzier, since some bands (e.g. grindcore) produce songs in the sub-two-minute range, while other bands (e.g. doom) produce songs so long that you forget what you’re actually listening to. It seems almost arbitrary, sometimes, how record companies choose to assign the LP and EP labels. For example, the Finnish pagan band Moonsorrow’s 2007 “full length” release V: Hävitetty not only has three fewer tracks than 2008’s “EP” Tulimyrsky, it’s actually thirteen minutes shorter.
Of course, the guiding light defining the difference between LP and EP tends to be “the band releases something other than strictly new original music.” Just to continue using the same example, Tulimyrsky contains one original song, two cover songs, and two re-recordings of previously released songs. The fact that the original song happens to be 29 minutes long is what puts that particular album into this critic’s “favourite ridiculous examples” category. Most metal bands use an EP as an opportunity to do something strange. So when a band that’s already as strange as Solefald puts out an EP, you know it’s going to be very weird indeed.
Norrønasongen – Kosmopolis Nord is 38 minutes long, and contains five songs. Indie Records apparently pressed it to vinyl, and it’s listed on Discogs as a “Vinyl LP EP.” See, weird. The main track is “Norrønaprogen,” an eleven and a half minute little ditty that sounds mostly like the Solefald we’re used to. It (along with the entire album) is sung in Norwegian, so it’s a little bit difficult for this non-Norwegian speaker to identify specific parts of the song, but that isn’t to say that it’s not completely enjoyable. The song is about equal parts grave and jocular; the chanted verses in the beginning remind me of the Icelandic Odyssey albums, while the bouncier parts of the song sound a bit more like a Korpiklaani drinking song. Overall, it’s a strange song, but nothing inherently stranger than what we heard on any of their past albums.
That changes dramatically when the second track rolls around. “Det Siste Landskap (An Icelandic Odyssey Part IV)” kicks off with a shimmering little guitar chord and a driving synth drum line. This song bears no resemblance to the past “Icelandic Odysseys” (not even the strange little song “Waves Over Valhalla (An Icelandic Odyssey Part III)”). That doesn’t mean it doesn’t sound Norwegian, because it undoubtedly does (if you listen to Norwegian electronic music, which this critic does). “Det Siste Landskap” is quite groovy, and definitely immersive. A full album of this kind of material from Cornelius Von Jackhelln and Lars Are Nedland would actually be an exciting prospect, although I suspect that the duo would get a slightly better reception if they chose not to use the Solefald name for such a thing.
“Norskdom” is a chant standing by itself. It sounds very much like the chanting heard in “Norrønaprogen,” but without a lyrics sheet, this critic cannot be sure if that is just because all metrical sung Norwegian sounds the same to his untrained ears or whether it really is all the same. The final two songs, however, clearly revisit many of the same musical themes, if not necessarily the same lyrics. Both “Norrøna: Ljodet Som Ljoma” and “Songen: Vargen” are listed as “Solefald VS. Sturmgeist & The Fall Of Rome,” and are odd electronically manipulated pieces. These two songs make up Side B of the LP/EP. They both have an extremely hazy, drugged feeling about them. If “Det Siste Landskap” feels like a dance track, Side B is that same party on some serious quaaludes. The electronic manipulation is much more reminiscent of Oranssi Pazuzu’s latest work than anything we’ve heard by Solefald before, and that sounds like a good thing but mostly it makes one want to listen to Valonielu again. These aren’t “bad” songs, but they feel incredibly simplistic after the strangeness of “Norrønaprogen.”
In the press release that went out with the promo for this EP, Nedland stated that “[this EP] sets the scene for the forthcoming album Kosmopolis Sud by being nothing like it. We’re Solefald after all!” They are indeed. Listening to Norrønasongen – Kosmopolis Nord has this critic ready and waiting for new music from Norway’s most experimental metal duo, so mission accomplished.