When it came to Epic Doom Metal, SOLSTICE were one of those bands that I dug, but not nearly to the extent that I dug, say, CANDLEMASS or SOLITUDE AETURNUS. I now realize that this was simply because I didn't own "New Dark Age" and was forming my entire opinion solely on the band's debut, "Lamentations". Silly me - while "Lamentations" was a solid Doom album, "New Dark Age" is one of the best the genre has to offer.
A few line-up changes took place between the two albums, most notably the replacement of vocalist Simon Matravers with new guy Morris Ingram. The two sound very similar - those not clued in to the swap might not even notice. I do find Ingram to be much more versatile and emotive, often though he does tend to roll his "r's" a bit. The songwriting is also a bit different - rather than just straight-forward Doom, we get incredibly epic compositions with a healthy dose of Celtic folk influence. This can especially be seen on "Cimmerian Codex", by far my favorite track on the album and the entirely-folk song "Blackthorne". The former of these tracks is just what a song should be and the part where everything cuts except for Ingram's anthemic vocals backed by just the drums is one of those ever-elusive eargasmic moments. "Blackthorne" is another one of those moments and is simply a beautiful little folk tune.
After hearing "New Dark Age", SOLSTICE instantly climbed the ranks of my favorite Epic Doom bands. This is an awesome and moving record, one that will simultaneously rock you out and leave you in awe. It can be a bit tough to find (after several years of searching, I finally snagged a copy from an Ebay leech), but if you're a fan of Epic Doom or even just straight-up Heavy Metal and you happen to stumble upon a copy, snatch it up, even if you have to grab it out of the hands of a three year-old girl. Fight her for it, if you have to. It's worth it. (Online September 4, 2006)