Solefald “Neonism” (1999)

Neonism was a radical departure from Solefald’s debut album. Gone were the eccentric symphonic metal arrangements and urbane pastoral pretensions, replaced with a frenetic pastiche, a black metal Mr. Bungle with an irreverent sense of humor and wild mood swings. The first song, “Fluorescent (The Total Orchestra)” signals the band’s new intent, with razor-sharp black metal overlaid with synth pop, surf rock, and unexpected reggae breakdowns. Cornelius and Lazare, the composers and players, are all over the map when it comes to singing, offering some poppy melodies and punk smarminess along with the usual assortment of growls, hisses, and shrieks. There’s even some reggae toasting and rap boasting when the music calls for it.

Towards the latter half of the album, the metal becomes sparser and a poppier sensibility takes hold, with the punk/worldbeat satire “Backpacka Baba” and the silly synth prog of “Third Person Plural” taking center stage. The album’s overall production sucks in a good way, with guitar lines reduced to a grindcore buzz and blasting tin can drums. It’s one of the rawest black metal recordings ever and yet completely “untrue,” defying every convention the genre had attempted to establish. The lyrics follow suit, offering snide political commentary, jabs at globalized culture, exploration of sexual utopianism, references to “Twin Peaks,” and a feeling of deep urban malaise best summed up with the lyric “she swallows the light, only to throw up shadows minutes later on a broken public toilet.”

Neonism might have been hated when it came out, but extreme metal has opened up a lot since then. With the risk of making a bad post hoc argument, I suspect Neonism had a lot to do with the outright abandonment by many black metal bands of the rote sound. The album injected some much needed color into the cold, gray landscape of Scandinavian black metal, a fearless experiment hell bent on teaching extreme metal how to laugh and sing and all that other good shit.

-James Slone


Release:  1999
Label:  Avantgarde Music
Avantgenre:  Pastiche Metal
Duration:  50:11
Origin:  Norway
Official site:
Review online since:  15.07.2007 / 09:36:37


01. Fluorescent
02. Speed Increased To Scaffold
03. CK II Chanel N*6
04. Proprietors Of Red
05. A Motion Picture
06. Omnipolis
07. Backpaka Baba
09. 0434 PM
10. The New Timelessness

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