The Soundbyte - Solitary IV album review

Shadowy Norse maverick Trond Engum explores his own sound world as The Soundbyte

The Soundbyte - Solitary IV album artwork

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There is great joy to be found in music that exists in an entirely separate universe.

Renowned for his idiosyncratic and artful approach to heavy music, previously with The 3rd And The Mortal and now with The Soundbyte, Norwegian one man awkward squad Trond Engum has an unerring gift for conjuring enthralling atmospheres and Solitary IV’s genuinely unsettling opening, Fanfare, boldly but obliquely reaffirms that gift. Fans of the avant-garde black metal scene will be more comfortable than most here, but there is none of the metal underground’s instinctive abrasiveness amid the kaleidoscopic ooze of Descending or the austere but angular plod of North, wherein a faint whiff of Enslaved’s windswept dignity seeps through dense waves of keyboards and percussion. Vocalist Berit Stensland is a mesmerising, spectral presence in the fog of interwoven sound, bringing a skewed sweetness and fragile humanity to what are primarily alien constructions. The graceful, slow-motion rush of Floating is particularly breathtaking: a dream-pop ballad with a turbulent soul. Solitary IV is endlessly intriguing: an unimpeded 2020 view through some perverse trans-dimensional portal into a musical world that only Engum calls home.

Dom Lawson

Dom Lawson has been writing for Metal Hammer and Prog for over 14 years and is extremely fond of heavy metal, progressive rock, coffee and snooker. He also contributes to The Guardian, Classic Rock, Bravewords and Blabbermouth and has previously written for Kerrang! magazine in the mid-2000s.