posted on 12/2006 By:
During a time when U.S. based metal labels were all searching for the next meaner, faster, more extreme band, Arlington, Texas’ Solitude Aeturnus decided to go the much less hip doom route. This left the band with very little (and often no) label support when trying to get themselves heard by fans Stateside, and also made it quite difficult to even find their albums in record stores throughout much of the 90’s (which still seems to be an issue today). But the band’s devotion to their craft far eclipsed any roadblocks thrown their way by record labels, and eventually their perseverance paid off with growing support outside the United States. Over time, word began to spread about the monumental doom being forged by the five young Texans, and thanks in a large part to the wondrous World Wide Web, the band’s material eventually became a little easier to come by. The end of this year marks the 20th anniversary (!) for the Solitude Aeturnus crew, and now it’s actually difficult to find a doom fan whose life hasn’t been touched by this remarkable band in some way. Friends, the wait is finally over...after eight long years of silence, Alone has FINALLY arrived.
Considering how long the band has spent nearly shrouded in mystery here in the U.S., I’m gonna start things off by giving you an idea of how their sound has morphed over the years. For those not already privy, Solitude Aeturnus play a brand of doom steeped in the tradition of obvious bands such as Sabbath, Pentagram, and Witchfinder General, but they’re most often compared to Sweden’s Candlemass - a fair analogy, considering both bands' heavy reliance on pounding riffs, ripping leads, and extremely distinctive, grandiose vocals. However, after spending some solid time digging deeper into Solitude’s material, one can hear a multitude of other influences peppering the band’s doom as well. For example, very early Fates Warning abounded on their first two records, especially the slightly speedier Beyond the Crimson Horizon. Mid-era material, such as 1994’s amazing Through the Darkest Hour, found the band slowing things down, dirtying up the vocals, and completely bludgeoning folks with a guitar and bass tone damn-near along the lines of a Bolt Thrower grind. Their last release, 1998’s Adagio, featured a more polished sound, and infused some psychedelic elements into the guitar work, along with some of Lowe’s most experimental vocals to date. But no matter what flavorings the band chose to infuse into each subsequent release, all their material has been rooted in a solid nucleus of meticulously crafted songs wrapped in heavy doom riffs, bubbling leads, and insanely catchy choruses, and their latest is certainly no different.
In its simplest form, Alone sounds like a logical progression from ‘98’s Adagio. The production is still crisp and clean, allowing the listener to focus on any player at any given time, and when you have a band that so painstakingly crafts each member's contribution to each song, this really adds to the longevity of the record as new elements bubble forth during repeated listens (and trust me, folks, you will be repeatedly listening to this record). The new rhythm section of James Martin and Steve Nichols fits seamlessly into the mix, and Steve Moseley’s switch from bass to second guitarist makes it sound as if the man was born to do the job Edgar Rivera sadly decided to leave behind in 2001.
Each song on Alone is loaded with the kind elements we’ve come to expect from this band over the years, but we also find the boys delivering some of the most plodding, glacial riffs they’ve ever created. Of course, said riffs are still cocooned in the melodic, infectious lead guitar work of founding member John Perez, who once again comes up fucking huge on this record. And true to the Solitude formula of old, the band again flaunts their fascination with Middle Eastern/Arabic elements, especially the smoky, snaky opening track, “Scent of Death”, and the sitar infused second cut, “Waiting for the Light”. We also hear much more of a Mercyful Fate/King Diamond influence on this record, which is not at all surprising, considering Perez’s affinity for King’s music (and the fact that one of the engineers involved has twisted knobs for King in the past). The imprint of axemen such as Hank Sherman and Andy LaRocque are brilliantly flashed by Perez in much of the early part of the record, especially the ripping Mercyful Fate inspired intro-lead on “Waiting for the Light”, and the midpoint lead on “Blessed Be the Dead”. And track four, “Sightless”, sounds like a straight-up Abigail era Diamond tune, albeit slowed a bit and swaddled in cozy Solitude-ian elements as well.
And what kind of Solitude Aeturnus review would this be if I didn’t mention the outstanding performance of Robert Lowe – definitely one of the most eminent and prodigious vocalists in metal today. As expected, Lowe’s warm, incredibly impassioned clean voice perfectly complements the somber sentiment of the band’s music. Tunes such as “Blessed Be the Dead”, “Sightless”, and the incredible, “Tomorrow’s Dead”, all have the kind of Lowe-ian chorus’ that’ll sink their hooks heavily into your brain, leaving you humming and singing literally for days-on-end.
Honestly, folks, I could probably ramble on for another 500 words if I wanted to point out every savory element twined within the magnificent roots of Alone, but I’ve definitely over-stayed my welcome here and it’s time to move on (what can I say, brevity is definitely not my specialty). Suffice to say, this is easily my most anticipated release of 2006, and you’ll likely find it ascending all the way to the top of my list at year-end. It’s an exciting time to be a doom fan, friends, and with pending new releases from both Trouble (Feb. 2007) and Pagan Altar (any day now), we’ve got plenty to look forward to as well. In the meantime, however, if haven’t already done so, treat yourself to one of the finest releases you’ll hear this year – Solitude Aeturnus’ Alone. Absolutely and unequivocally essential!
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