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Viper Solfa - Carving An Icon (2015) - Review

Band: Viper Solfa
Album title: Carving An Icon
Release Date: 20th February 2015
Label: Massacre Records

01. Deranged
02. Funeral Of Kings
03. Carving An Icon
04. The Toxic Thousands
05. Vulture Kingdom
06. Call For Silence
07. War Of Zion
08. The Viper Legion
09. Whispers And Storms
10. Shahanshah

If you aren't exactly living under a rock or in a cave on a deserted island, then you must know who Viper Solfa is by now, because this is one of those bands that gained instant attention in the metal world in the moment it was formed. But if just so happens you are however nor familiar to this new ensemble, let me just briefly sum up: after a heavy drama sunk down the Norwegian gothic metal masters Trail Of Tears, mere moments before their latest and last album Oscillation was released, the main creative force behind the band, Ronny Thorsen, decided he wasn't in any way giving up music at all, which resulted in the birth of Viper Solfa. His Trail of Tears buddies Endre Moe on bass and Bjørn Dugstad Rønnow behind the drums joined in as well, alongside Krister Dreyer, known also by his alter (metal) ego Morpheus, whom you may know as previously being involved in the black metal scene, being a part of bands such as Limbonic Art and Ancient and also contributing to live performances of the black metal legends Mayhem. With Morpheus taking over the lead on guitars, keyboards and also orchestrations (as well as songwriting), only one piece of the puzzle of missing to make this formation complete. And it came in the shape of Miriam Renvåg (also known as Sphinx), the vocalist to counterpoise Ronny's harsh vocals. Yes, Viper Solfa basically is an extreme metal supergroup so it is no wonder, expectations for what they will be delivering was high.

Viper Solfa named their brand of music simply as poison metal, but what does that tell us? Well, nothing, if you haven't heard it yet and a lot once you have it in your system, slowly reaching out to every living cell in your organism. Musically Carving An Icon is built on a thick layer of melodic black metal, saturated with heavy and aggressive tunes, sometimes shifting to mid-tempo black metal passages and adorned with a splint of darkish and quite mesmerizing elements taken from the world of gothic and symphonic metal. The opening track "Deranged" kicks in with full speed ahead, portraying the twisted and crushing energy the album carries from beginning to the end, but what really got my attention mostly right at the very beginning were Miriam's vocals. While Ronny's growls sound as raw and uncompromising as ever, Miriam – whose previous work I was not familiar with - creates more than perfect and more than worthy opponent, who doesn't get taken down easily. She does not sound like a damsel in distress so do not expect the classical beauty and the beast approach here, as instead she presents herself with absolutely stunning, incredibly strong and wretched vocals, which tell us she is not to be messed with. Her voice colour and the fact she is in full control of her voice just took my breath away and throughout the entire album dynamics between both vocalists rather shines out as one of the most powerful features, especially in songs such as "Shahanshah", "Carving An Icon" and "Cal For Silence".  While the first half of the album mainly throws in the bombastic and flamboyant conglomerate of aforementioned styles, "Vulture Kingdom" stands out with its incredible, truly gothic-esque, atmospheric intermezzo in the middle of the song, slowing down its overall verve and drawing incredibly ghastly and sombre atmosphere, which again would not be so intense and vivid without Miriam's vocal input. "The Viper Legion" may briefly evoke the nostalgic and deeply buried feelings Trail Of Tears fans (myself included) still carry inside as they come quite slow to the unique style TOT once delivered, whilst "Whispers And Storms" presents itself with its massively epic and grandiose posture, mainly because of the vigorous and majestic orchestrations, which really add a certain amount of awe-inspiring ambient.

You see, this so called poison metal will intoxicate you with its venom, which will slowly progress through the course of your blood, until you find yourself under the influence. Meaning: Carving An Icon is not an easy listening and may not even appeal to you at the very first time you sink your teeth into this release, but its beauty and strength lies in so many different layers, which you need to steadily unveil one by one. One thing is for sure though: even the first spin of this album will undoubtedly give you impression that it holds immense quality and you need to peer yourself into its chamber of secrets. But its charm lies in its complexity, close attention to details, excellent musicianship and great production. Viper Solfa might be under quite a lot of pressure, since it combines so many excellent and well-established names in the metal scene, but with their debut they have proven themselves; they have proved they are still full of ideas and they know how to intertwine all these different aspects. If anything, I only wish they would perhaps experiment more with the symphonic and gothic elements and expand them, to add a bit more of diversity, as they really add the special flavour to their sound or maybe add one ballad to the album, where they could take us into a whole new world of enchanted and darksome dimensions.

Review written by: Ines
Rating: 8/10

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