In Solitude - s/t 4/5

Reviewed: 9-4-09


1. In the darkness
2. Witches sabbath
3. Kathedral
4. Beyond is where I learn
5. 7th ghost
6. Faceless mistress
7. Temple of the unknown
8. The monolith

In Solitude drummer/producer Uno Bruniusson came up with a dead-on description for this CD when he said, "We ended up with a perfect mix of catchy old Heavy Metal and pure hell." Judging by In Solitude's recent success, the underground metal hordes agree. Although this talented Swedish quintet has been plugging away since 2002, they have really hit their stride of late. By all accounts, In Solitude delivered a blistering set at Keep It True XII, the premier true/traditional metal festival in Europe, earlier this year. Earache Records featured their tune "Witches sabbath" for inclusion on its recent classic metal compilation, 'Heavy metal killers' (which you really should check out if you don't have it already). And highly respected German indie metal label Pure Steel Records unleashed the band's 's/t' debut CD on the world a few months ago.

Simply put, In Solitude are one of the most accomplished new wave of classic metal bands to emerge from Sweden in quite some time. They fit neatly in that corner of the heavy metal art form populated by acts like Wolf, Enforcer, RAM, Portrait and Heathendom. All of these bands share, to a greater or lesser extent, a mixture of dark old-school metal with a healthy dose of vintage Iron Maiden and the best parts of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. The difference is that In Solitude pulls off this style better than any of its colleagues right now.

The most glaring, obvious influence on In Solitude's sound is Mercyful Fate circa the Danish legends' 'Don't break the oath' opus. The killer dual guitars, the evil vibe, and the sometimes mournful vocal stylings all follow closely the Diamond/Shermann/Denner recipe. However, unlike their countrymen Portrait, In Solitude don't come across as a mere clone band because their path diverges from Fate's in several respects. Singer Pelle Ahman (aka "Hornper", whatever that means) doesn't attempt any King Diamond-type falsettos, but instead sings in a clear strong mid-range that calls to mind many NWOBHM singers, albeit with that melancholic edge that Diamond used so brilliantly back in the day. Also, In Solitude draw from a broader sonic palette than just Mercyful Fate, with prominent upbeat, brighter influences such as early Iron Maiden and Angel Witch that counterbalance and offset the darker, more sinister elements. A song like "Faceless mistress" almost sounds cheerful and uplifting in an early 80s metal kind of way, that is, if one can overlook the lyrical themes about a bloodthirsty demoness wreaking havoc in a cemetery after midnight. Finally, In Solitude have resisted Mercyful Fate's tendency to meander and get progressive in their arrangements, instead offering up punchy, compact, concise, and memorable tracks that average around 4 minutes in length.

Undoubtedly, there's a campy aspect to all of this. For crying out loud, In Solitude have put the silhouette of a goat on their CD cover. Even worse, this shadowy baphomet is surrounded by a bunch of radioactive glowing-white hooded, robed figures who appear to have gotten dipped in radioactive material while en route to a Ku Klux Klan convention. The booklet art features a cornucopia of stock occult imagery, such as coffins, upside-down crosses, skulls, demons, and so forth. Lyrics are in the same mold, you know, witches and pentagrams and damnation and burning candles and hailing Satan and such. Pretty cliched and silly, right? But here's the thing: The music and performances are so utterly convincing that you'll scarcely notice any of these background distractions. This debut CD is 36 minutes (way too short!) of non-stop outstanding dark, traditional heavy metal. Wolf may be a great band, but they can't match what their countrymen in In Solitude are doing now. Portrait are quite enjoyable, but they come across as a mere tribute band compared to In Solitude. Pure Steel Records have come up with another winner here, so get out there and support In Solitude, who just may be Europe's brightest new hope for darkened old-school traditional metal.




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