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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

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 has been writing for Hammer and Prog for 14 intermittently enjoyable years and is extremely fond of heavy metal, progressive rock, coffee and snooker. He listens to more music than you. And then writes about it.