Monday, 23 September 2013

In Solitude - Sister (2013) 93%

The Sister of Solitude: Elisif the Fair

The boys of In Solitude are back with their new full length. “Sister” is the confirmation that the third album usually establishes the real personality of a band and it's often their magnum opus. It's definitely the “Master of Reality” or the “Reign In Blood” of the Swedes as it includes the sound developed on their two previous albums and reach some new, unexplored realms that are delivering the goods.

While I always considered the band to be one if not the best of the NWOTHM (New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal) , they always were the kid who was killing harmless bugs in the courtyard. Indeed, compared to the unoriginal rehashing of the past bands like Enforcer or Steelwing are doing, they always had this dark aura surrounding them and it made them more interesting for me. Furthermore, In Solitude constantly evolved throughout their recordings. The first self titled album explored the dark traditional metal sound of Mercyful Fate with concise and catchy numbers and in 2011, their excellent sophomore “The World. The Flesh. The Devil.” expanded into more epic territories with lengthier songs. “Sister” took the good qualities of these albums, it's more succinct than their 2011 album and darker than their debut. I believe it's their best album not only because they managed to incorporate everything that was great in their sound but also because they're not repeating themselves while doing so. We have 3 pretty different albums but they're all linked by a constant personality and change is neither detrimental or to be feared with them.

Perhaps it was a bit easy to guess their direction with the title of my review. But yeah, In Solitude decided to jump into the gothic rock pool and trust me, the water is perfectly soothing. They always had this occult rock feel which was distancing the band from their scene and they really pushed the boundaries here. I mean, the band is often touring with extreme metal bands (Watain and Tribulation in North America this fall) and it shows in their approach. This band got it, they have the skills and the musicianship to evolve outside of a confined genre. It's neither experimentation nor being “avant-garde”, it's an artistic pursuit of relevance. In fact, it's not following anything, it's establishing a sound without trying too hard like Ghost who are as original as a peacock in New Orleans during Mardi Gras.

I wouldn't be surprised if they were to ditch the metal influences altogether, they would be a great post punk/gothic band but for now the mix of influences is of the highest quality you can find. Spiritually blending the operatic and theatrical approach of The Sisters of Mercy, Christian Death and Type O Negative with the contemplative side of the occult rock scene and the high-octane attack of heavy metal that is still the meat and potatoes of their sound. Nonetheless, it's the little things that made this album great like Jarboe's guest vocals on “Horses in the Ground” or the soft acoustic and intricate introduction “He Comes” (who? Santa, Satan?).

Pelle's vocals are kind of an acquired taste, I personally like the mesmerizing weird approach he has, it has this distorted passion and it's full of emotions. His choruses are catchy and even when the vocals are buried, it's still appreciable. It's not very different from before but he's perhaps simply better, the dude is pretty young I think their trademark is the lead guitar though, it's so good. It doesn't need to have two minutes solos to shine either, the title track has these blistering short leads and it works so well. “Lavender” almost has this indie/post punk vibe akin to Franz Ferdinand. It's groovy and totally moving. I can see the grin of purists but I think it works very well, the different influences are well incorporated. While the band expanded on their subtle and occult side, they also made sure to remain catchy. The riffs are so good and it's very fresh.

The atmospheres are varied, from slow and spooky to contagiously catchy. Often helped by the presence of keys like on the best track “A Buried Sun” which is a seven minutes resume of the sound of “Sister”. You could accuse the band to ride on the occult rock wave but they they do it in ease and honesty. Despite the apparent new-found sound of the album, I think it was something that could had been predicted. Who the hell was surprised when Opeth released “Heritage”? I feel it's a similar concept here, In Solitude already had the basis, the genesis of this heavy/gothic sound, they only let it loose, let it evolved, it's their Venusaur. Heavy, majestic and with tangled vines grasping your neck with its scorching solos (the eight minutes final track “Inmost Nigredo” has these leads intertwined with uber heavy riffs).

Sister” is an essential album for the fans of traditional metal that aren't afraid of surprises and explorations. It's one of the highlights of 2013, it's a dense album with many nuances, it's crafted with care and it's to be handled with the utmost respect.

In Solitude on Bookface

*Originally written for the Metal Observer*

Only one blonde? Are they really Swedish?

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