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Viper Solfa - Carving an Icon

Viper Solfa – CD Review
Carving an Icon

Carving an Icon



CD Info
Massacre Records
Dark Metal
10 Tracks
English Lyrics

My favorite metal vocal combination is dark (growling) male voice and clean (natural) female soprano or contralto. Dark metal draws me in so powerfully that my owner, Tiny Tiny Cakey Kitten, has the nickname of Dark Metal Cat – he gets to hear a lot of it. When the dark metal is presented as creatively and beautifully as Viper Solfa perform it, they have a definite winner in my book. I have no doubt Carving an Icon will be on my albums of the year list.

Dark metal comes in many flavors, as do most metal genres. Some of it verges on sludge or drone metal. Elsewhere on the dark spectrum there are bands whose music is almost indistinguishable from stoner or straightforward doom. Then there are bands like Viper Solfa who flood the darkness with the black light of melodic and symphonic metal. They can be so atmospheric that they generate ozone through the speakers. Viper Solfa is of those latter types of bands. Their music is so melodious that it’s almost orchestral.

Anyone who’s in love with female-fronted Gothic metal or the heavier types of symphonic metal should find as much pleasure in Carving an Icon as I did. If your taste is for melodic death/doom, this one should grab you, too. It’s engrossing and requires full attention if you want to appreciate all the nuances of the music. Yet at the same time it’s so musical and so deftly arranged that it’s a joy to play all the way through without interruption. Dark metal and its closest relative, doom, are constructed to be heavy and to convey somber themes. Maybe I’m an oddity, but listening to Viper Solfa fills me with euphoria.

This album is the band’s debut release. The band itself, however, is a supergroup made up of singers and musicians who reached the heights with other bands. All the members are from Norway, birthplace of black metal and a perfect breeding ground for other styles of foreboding metal. Vocalist Ronny Thorsen was the driving force behind Trail of Tears. His female vocal partner, Miriam “Sphinx” Renvåg, sang in Ram-Zet and Eternal Tears of Sorrow. Morfeus was guitarist for Mayhem and Limbonic Art. The line-up is completed by bassist Endre Moe and drummer Bjørn Dugstad Rønnow, both formerly with Trail of Tears. Morfeus is the main composer for Viper Solfa. In addition he manages the orchestration, and his keyboard playing is an essential element of the orchestral feel of the album. As a composer he introduces some very clever writing. For example, there are passages where the vocals are in direct harmony with the guitar and bass. Modern rock and metal make considerable use of counterpoint rather than same-note harmonizing. Viper Solfa does both.

I wouldn’t try to venture who makes the most important contribution to the sound of Viper Solfa. It’s a tightly integrated unit. All the departments – vocals, guitars, keyboards, and percussion and rhythm – complement each other magnificently in some passages and merge just as well in other parts. It took the band a year to put the album together. The amount of work they did to perfect it is clearly evident.

Most of Ronny Thorsen’s vocal are mid-range and comfortable, if one can apply that word to dark vocals. When he pushes down the register, he sounds just as effortlessly in control. One of the many things I like about his singing is the clarity of the lyrics. With some growling vocalists it can be difficult to hear all the words. Not so when Thorsen is at the microphone.

Sphinx is a lovely clean vocalist. Often she uses her voice as an extra instrument, not just to deliver the lyrics but also to enhance the male vocals.

The instrumentalists are all far beyond mere expert level. When you’ve played any of the songs a few times to listen to each instrument separately, you’ll probably appreciate how many, many hours these guys must have spent rehearsing every note.

Of the ten tracks on the album, I’d single out… well, any of them. I didn’t hear a jarring note or a discordant bar anywhere. The title track, “Carving an Icon”, is a good indicator of what the rest of the album sounds like. It’s top-class from start to end.

Rating: 9.5/10

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