Solefald – Pills Against the Ageless Ills (2001)
Weird, but not that weird. Solefald is one of the many “post-black metal” bands that were in vogue about a decade ago. Listening to Pills Against the Ageless Ills reveals the remnants of long-since abandoned ancestors, with tremelo riffing and shrieks breaking through a wide variety of compositional styles. However, the band’s integrated their elements into a distinctive, yet coherent sound that doesn’t break into weird asides as much as bands like Sigh. Best to leave it at that lest I collapse into a mess of conditionals.
Unifying the sounds here is a weird concept album – two brothers (Pornographer Cain and Philosopher Fuck) wander aimlessly through a mindscape of mostly American/”Western” pop culture and catastrophically fail to cope with it. The lyrics here are high on slogans, product placement, and low on narrative, so the overall effect is like looking through a heavily graffito’ed coffee table book of photography more than a novel. The delivery, though, is effective, showcasing Cornelius Jakhelln and Lars Nedland’s infamous dual vocals. Their ability to weave through each other’s lines (and occasionally perform conflicting lines on top of each other) is one of the high points of this band; if you think that might be something you enjoy, you’re probably scrambling for a vendor that sells this album as I draft this review.
After some of the stranger moments on this album’s predecessor (Neonism), the greater unity of musical style here is sort of striking. There’s a particular emphasis on older rock and metal styles even beyond that of a lot of extreme metal, even considering that a lot of it was a fairly common trend for works of this relative vintage; they usually manifest as entire songs in their styles. Probably a better, healthier method of incorporating your influences than random asides, but even those make a few appearances, like the brief flourishes of high-pitched violin on some of these tracks. In fact, Solefald more often adds these ideas by performing them over the more extreme-metal derived foundation of this album, making for a dense and occasionally frighteningly claustrophobic soundscape. It certainly fits the lyrics, at the very least.
I’d like to think that I can provide a more balanced opinion on Pills Against the Ageless Ills – somewhere, somewhen, Solefald claimed their music was perfect; “red music with black edges”, and all sorts of other content hard to judge without access to their motivations. Regardless, I’m not entirely sure I believe that. Unlike Neonism, much of this doesn’t actually stick.
Highlights: “Hyperhuman”, “Pornographer Cain”, “Hate Yourself”