In Solitude - The world, the flesh, the Devil 4/5
1. The world, the flesh, the Devil
2. We were never here
3. Serpents are rising
4. Poisoned, blessed and burned
6. To her darkness
7. Dance of the adversary
8. On burning paths
When Sweden’s In Solitude released their debut CD on Pure Steel Records a couple of years ago, I raved about it to anyone who would listen. I was mesmerized by the band’s uncanny ability to fuse classic Mercyful Fate with early Iron Maiden in a menacing-yet-catchy way, sort of like taking the very best elements of countrymen Wolf and Portrait. Of course, more recently it’s become something of a trend to play this kind of old-fashioned, occult, Mercyful Fate-influenced stuff. Ghost – the most successful purveyors of this style, albeit with a much mellower rock edge – have been hyped to the point where even out-of-touch rock stars like James Hetfield walk around in their t-shirts. Metal Blade has signed a whole wave of these bands (Portrait, In Solitude, and RAM all fit under the MB umbrella now), no doubt trying to harvest a Ghost of their own. And, incredibly, In Solitude landed the direct support slot on Down’s headlining tour through backwater America earlier this month, even playing this scribe’s metal-starved redneck village. Things are looking up for In Solitude, no doubt, but the question remains as to how their 2nd CD, the curiously titled ‘The world, the flesh, the Devil’ would fare.
In many ways, this CD is a logical continuation of the debut. In Solitude still attack the listener with dark compelling guitar runs right out of the Shermann/Denner playbook. Singer Hornper still does the best take on King Diamond’s plaintive, mournful midrange of anyone in today’s metal world, while skipping the polarizing falsettos altogether. And bassist Gottfrid Ahman (who also appears to be the band’s mastermind, given that he is the visual focal point of their live performance) offers up a quotient of gripping basslines propelling the songs forward in true Steve Harris fashion. The explosive Maiden/Fate cocktail remains fully evident on ‘The world, the flesh, the Devil’, just as on its predecessor. And songs like the pummeling title track, the strangely uplifting “To her darkness” (check out that unbelievable main riff/stomp) and the awesome melodic “Serpents are rising” (arguably the best In Solitude song of all time, even if they didn’t play it live when I saw them) are proof positive that In Solitude haven’t lost their knack for writing killer songs.
That said, it would be inaccurate to label ‘The world, the flesh, the Devil’ as simply a rehash of the debut. The most obvious difference is that, while the debut’s songs typically hover around the 4-minute mark, 6 of the 8 cuts on display here surpass the 6-minute mark, with closer “On burning paths” burning up more than 13 minutes of playing time all by itself. In general, the songs on this CD feel like they stretch out a good deal longer than the compact, to-the-point tunes on the debut, with jammy parts where the instrumentalists meander around at length sans vocal accompaniment. It’s not so much like the songs are laden with twists and turns, but rather is more like In Solitude opted to build a couple minutes in each tune to jam. Truth be told, I’m not completely sold on the compositional change. Don’t get me wrong: It’s fun to hear Gottfrid and the boys just rockin’ out and every part sounds cool when you hear it, but I feel like it dilutes the power of a few of the songs. Several tracks, I think, would have been more potent and effective as stripped-down 4-minute smashers without the extra 2+ minutes of rockin’ instrumental parts tacked on.
The bottom line is that In Solitude have turned in another winner. I just love this band’s sound, and their energy fairly crackles out of the speakers as the CD spins. Other people get it too. When I saw In Solitude play live, the southern fried Down crowd stared on apathetically at first, but within a couple of songs were transformed into old-school fistbanging maniacs. The guy next to me tapped me on the shoulder and yelled in my ear “they sound just like old Iron Maiden” with a big grin on his face. Halfway concealed behind the amps, a drunk Phil Anselmo was reduced to headbanging goo before In Solitude’s power and might. With the right push and a little luck, In Solitude could break into a much bigger act. They’ve got the songs, the look, the voice, and the all-around cool factor. Friends, Romans, countrymen: lend them your ears. You might just find yourself joining them on burning paths to the future. It should be one hell of a ride.
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