Sunday, April 13, 2014

Solstice - Death's Crown Is Victory [2013]

Needless to say I'm not the biggest doom fan out there. As a genre with the potential to exfoliate any sort of eloquence or panache with the simplest of banalities, I often found doom too ''slow'' to be such a wildly invigorating trip as any other genre, and that's, I think, one of the more commonplace scoldings it gets from listeners. Again, while that doesn't mean I neglect everything doom, I find myself at a loss of interest in most cases. That is the continual Grand Magus albums, the slower bits and pieces of Agalloch, almost any kind of sludge/stoner doom throwback, and even some of the classics. Of course the genre has witnessed quite a few climaxes lately, (or so it's been said) following an unimaginable upsurge in its popularity, most of which I haven't been able to visit. When we come to Solstice, I realize that my previous criticisms should equal an acidic assault on the band's redundancy, but strangely enough, that is not the case. These UK veterans are tough, seasoned, well-established, and even though I have no history with them, I was rather taken by their newest EP, ''Death's Crown Is Victory''.

What does Solstice hold for a seeker of eccentricities such as I? For one, it's consistent. In basic terms, the EP is just two booming 9 minute songs, with two lesser instrumentals clustered around them. What's essentially a concoction of Sabbath, Witchfinder General, Pentagram and newer Swedish trends is played with great, tight musicianship, and doesn't falter for one second. Solstice is defined as epic doom metal, which, though more fitting for other practitioners of the style, seems like a worthy tag. The half-dolorous, half-vainglorious vocals stretch and burden the album with clarity and the overall atmosphere is generally warm except for rare saunters into darker territory. And that's not just it. Who could not drool over the simplistic chug-complex of the huge, sun-wreathed guitar chords and progressions that etch across the album? Sometimes the Brits puncture a few technicalities into the mix, with melodies and even occasional arpeggio sequences, like on the title track, but the guitars generally retain a set of riffs more fitting for the baritone of the vocals; and the drums are always there, cymbal and snare, battering against the currents of mourn and triumph. While Solstice doesn't dabble with any of the 60's/70's psychedelic rock phenomena that new bands keep interpreting into their sound these days, they keep the more eclectic strata of listeners awake with melodious twists and turns here and there, so you know the album isn't all doom n' gloom.

And doesn't ''Death's Crown Is Victory'' feel redundant at times? You bet. There are more than just a few sequences where the riffs were rather dulling, where the vocals weren't saturated with enough epic tenor to shake me and cause goosebumps to pop up on my arm, and the overall sound is nothing if not original - but so what? It could have used a few tweaks in the production as well, because the guitars were to brassy at times that they were choking the vocals, but, again, there's no huge loss here. It just feels like a cogent, ass-kicking album. The big story was that they weren't travelling at a snail's face, like their funeral doom peers, and they certainly weren't fucking around with pointless poignant interludes here and there; I simply thought the pacing was damn close to optimum in terms of doom. And while the block-like patterns didn't stir anything close to maternal grief or irreparable woe, it is a moving experience. A nice potent formula to brew every now and then when you're taking a long walk across the English pastoral.

I Am The Hunter
Death's Crown is Victory

Rating: 78%

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