Solstice - Lamentations (Candlelight, 1994)
As its 20 years since this golden record was released, and Solstice made a strong come-back last year, my idea was to present why “Lamentations” paved new ways for classic doom metal back then. After the 70s proto-doom and the developing 80s doom with leaders as Black Sabbath, Pentagram, Witchfinder General, Saint Vitus and Trouble the scene started to pull out more epic substance. The 3 most important names for me in epic doom were/are Candlemass, Solitude Aeturnus and Solstice.
While both Candlemass and S. Aeturnus were somehow combining the Sabbathian ‘diabolus in musica’ triton-influenced rhythm guitar themes with heavy metal and even eastern influences on the guitar melody line, Solstice’s music had a unique discrete English folk influence which is not always sensible in their debut album, but it’s still there behind the massive wall of guitar riffs. Well-worked out guitar lines, with also a hint of early Manowar and Viking-era Bathory, gloomy vocals with Celtic touch and wailing guitar harmonies/solos was be the magical recipe. Though the band were assumedly inspired from the 80s bands, the sound here is really massive metallic, quite modern for the year 1994, making them probably the heaviest traditional doom metal band from that era. It was not nostalgia for the 80s, but setting new values for heavy doom.
The colossal iron sound is completed by easy-memorable heroic singing, somewhat similar that later the UK band Warning carried out. Simon Matravers was a gifted singer for the band, his voice being ballsy, dark and epic all together. Lyrics are well written poems filled with darkness, grief and misery with sort of ancient and medieval touch.
Still Rich Walker’s guitar lines and the arrangements of the song structures are the main bone of the giant called Solstice. Quite numerous rhythm-breaks, easily switching from slow doom to mid-paced tempos kept these 6 – 8 minutes songs exciting. The cursing of lot of doom metal bands is to have too long songs, which can’t keep you captive, so the story falls to monotony. Not the case here. Listen to “The Man Who Lost With The Sun”, a 9 minute monolith, which I could listen continuously over and over.
“I want to feel this way
I worship the night and despise the day
Sleep brings escape from turmoil and pain
The accursed sun brings it back again.”
One intro, an ethereal folk-inspired track like from another age with the abovementioned Celtic feeling (Empty Lies the Oaken Throne) and 8 massive doom metal pillars in almost one hour, makes “Lamentations” a milestone in Doom Metal, paving the ways for bands like Warning, Age of Taurus, Gallows God, Griftegard, Black Oath and what not. It’s still an enigma to me how Candlelight released this, as they were more into the uprising black metal scene in the early 90s, but probably as the album was such virtuous, even a black metal label was interested to release it.
After “Lamentations” they released an EP “Halcyon” with Simon, before his departure from the band. In 1998 they released the second full-length “New Dark Age”, an even more complex, more grandiose, more massive and fresh doom metal album, but that’s another story for another time.
Go, dig back into the history of this band and don’t forget to check out the surprisingly strong come-back from last year, “Death’s Crown In Victory”. I hope the band will release at least a third full-length to complete the glorious circle.
Written by Rob