Release DetailsLABEL Metal Blade Records
RELEASED ON 5/24/2011
The World.The Flesh.The Devil
Allow me to share with you one of my darkest and most haunting metal fears: King Diamond will eventually lay down his bone-cross microphone for good.
That's something I really don't like to think about, but them's the facts. And while I understand and agree with a number of the classic bands to whom folks have drawn lines in terms of In Solitude's overall sound, the heart of this beast undoubtedly burns in the same fires that warned us to never break The Oath back in the early 80s. The mood is similarly grim; the guitar work is distinctly Denner & Shermann-esque; and the vocals -- while totally devoid of shrill screams -- sound considerably similar to King's lower register. So, along with a small handful of other bands traversing a similar path, In Solitude stands as one of the contenders that could help to fill a rather sizable void in my metal life once King ultimately throws in the towel. An unfair expectation? Absolutely! I'm sure these young Uppsalan bangers didn't gather with any sort of preconceived notion of becoming "the next in line." But I can't help but look at them exactly that way, just as I toss Portrait under a similar light.
Combine that with the fact that the press and comrades across the board have already shat multiple Skittle rainbows over this record and I couldn't help but walk into this release with lofty expectations. And you know, I agree, there are some genuinely fantastic moments here that show a great deal of potential. But I also can't shake the notion that The World The Flesh The Devil,when consumed as a whole, would have amplified its impact tenfold had the band trimmed some fat, embellished the production and amplified the dynamics.
That last point, particularly when combined with the first, has been a real stickler for me. When I think about the impact Mercyful Fate first had on me as a youth back in the early 80s, beyond the fact that the entire package was so tantalizingly taboo in all its iniquity, the band was masterful when it came to amplifying dynamics very directly. And while The World The Flesh The Devil certainly has its fair share of moments wherein In Solitude has things properly sorted out, there are also plenty of instances where an individual who should be standing under a spotlight ends up getting muddled because the songwriting over-exaggerates a need for everyone doing something at all times. Does that even make sense? I've struggled with that point for days. In other words, if the band were to strip a couple layers off and simplify their approach, the embellishments across the board would shine a little brighter and make for an even catchier album. All the players here are excellent, so giving everyone ample opportunity to shine on their own should be a top priority.
Additionally, the album's velvety production surprisingly doesn't help matters much. Yes, it's warm, smoky and well-suited for the style, but it's also very linear in that it rarely deviates from the rule that everyone gets equal share of the board 100% of the time. Picture a band on stage with everyone lined up directly next to one another for the entire performance and you've got the record's production in a nutshell.
But by God, when In Solitude strikes the iron on the mark, the results are VERY rewarding. As I said, all the players are skilled beyond their years, so each tune flashes moments worthy of a spotlight. But "Poisoned, Blessed and Burned" and "Dance of the Adversary" up the ante in regards to catchiness and incorporate additional ornamental embroidery to further fancify the mix: the prior with its mellow flourishes (that don't just happen during an outro), dark whispers and creepily lilting female vocal embellishments (turn that shit up!), and the latter with its generally more rollicking disposition that gives the melodic guitars a bit more breathing room. And despite the fact that it takes too long to get there, the closing 14-minute "On Burning Paths" twists and turns enough to stand as its own mini-LP. But the crowned jewel of this work strikes with the excellent "Demons", which, despite missing a prime opportunity to shred your face after a short pause at its midpoint, offers up one of 2011's most devastating riff breakouts at the 5:28 mark that's damn-near transcendent in its sublimity.
To conclude, there have been occasions where I've picked up random tunes on The World The Flesh The Devil and wondered if I've lost my bloody mind in regards to all the nitpicking bullshit I can't seem to let pass. But I have high standards for bands stepping into Mercyful Fate/Diamond territory; perhaps too high. And every time I've sat down to absorb this record in its entirety, I've ended up with similarly confounding results that point to the conclusion that the album as a whole remains an additional editor's touch away from being truly magnificent. It's a very worthy album with some pants-shittingly awesome moments, but I still believe there are better things to come from this young band.