SOLSTICE - Death’s Crown In Victory 12” MLP (White Horse, 2013)
From time to time there were rumors that Rich Walker would bring back to life the entity named SOLSTICE. Actually he said he never splitted up the band, he just had difficulties in finding the right people. Debut album “Lamentations” was a magical recording in a time when doom metal was fused and overfused with goth and slow death metal. Up to this day it’s hard to find a more pure epic doom metal album than “Lamentations”. I would put that album right near the classic Candlemass and Solitude Aeturnus records. The following full-length “New Dark Age” was an unexpectedly - in a good way - modern album setting new standards for the genre. Then a few songs on splits and compilations, and Solstice lured back into a long dream / hibernation.
Without big tam-tams in October 2013 they just released the come-back EP “Death’s Crown In Victory”, the vinyl got unexpectedly high interest among doomsters, the vinyl being sold out in a matter of days, so I consider myself lucky enough owning one of the 500 copies. Since October, a 2nd pressing is already sold out, also Rich Walker admitting they are more than surprised of the growing interest around the band.
Ok, let’s see what we have here. Although nobody would have been unhappy with a full-length, we have “just” 4 new songs, clocking around 26 minutes, which if you ask me is more OK than having boring bonuses just to stretch the playing time. 4 new excellent Epic Heavy Doom Metal songs are what you’ll find. The sound is quite modern, you can clearly hear every single note played on the guitar. No demo feeling, but also not over-produced, just the perfect raw metal feeling. “Fortress England” with its 3:21 minutes its more than just an intro, it’s the building-up to the following 2 monumental songs. Building in slowly, with warlike drums and a memorable guitar melody than bursting out in force in middle-tempo epic metal riffs, reminding me of old time Manowar and Manilla Road. It also reminds me every time to Primordial’s The Calling from their Burning Season EP. The same short epic song, which is like ‘a call to arms’ for the forthcoming battle. Which starts with the following “I Am The Hunter”. The opening riffs of the song reminds me again of Manowar and Manilla Road, but slowly the typical Solstice melodies come in. The vocals are sung by - for me previously unknown - Paul Kearns, who is a solid successor to the previous singers of the band. His masculine voice fits perfectly to this robust epic metal. He sings both the lows and highs with the same force.
Same things are going in the 3rd track, the monumental 10 minutes “Death’s Crown In Victory”. Drums are marching victoriously, vocals and guitars bringing powerful war-like tunes.
The closing track “Aequinoctium II”, just like the opener it is an instrumental song. If the opening song was the call to battle this is one is the remembrance of the battle.
Still, there is a change in Solstice. Opposing to the occasionally pessimistic and gloomy melodies from the previous works, the new songs have a more positive approach. Less melancholic, but more encouraging, both guitar lines and vocals are transmitting a more confident energy.
This EP is like a statement. The message of Solstice is “We are back and stronger than ever”, presented also in the lyrics:
“And here is where we stand, upright and unchained
Whilst your shaking hands tend to bloodied knee
Without a name, you are not a man.”
Solstice is here for a reason.
9 / 10
Written by Rob