Few bands are as worthy of the title of True Metal Warriors as are England’s SOLSTICE. Led by guitarist Rich Walker and featuring a shifting line-up of other musicians, SOLSTICE has long produced Epic Doom Metal of the highest quality, earning them a spot among what you might call the Big Four of Epic Doom; the other three being CANDLEMASS, SOLITUDE AETURNUS and WHILE HEAVEN WEPT. That being said, if you enjoy those bands, you need this album. If you don’t like any of them, well, you probably won’t like SOLSTICE much either.
Building upon a foundation of weeping guitar lines and melancholy clean vocals atop low, grinding guitar riffs, SOLSTICE still have a sound distinct from the rest of their Epic Doom brethren. The sound of “Lamentations” is very mournful, but not in the grandiose way of CANDLEMASS, the beautifully caustic way of SOLITUDE AETURNUS, or the dreamy, powerful way of WHILE HEAVEN WEPT. No, the sound here is that of, well, lamenting. Simon Matravers vocals just drip with emotion as the songs slither underneath him. The music takes you places, to the inside of vast empty cathedrals and then to the middle of Stone Henge. It takes you through the moors and down into dank dungeons. All the while, Simon narrates the voyage, intoning his Doom in tear-jerking fashion. Of the ten tracks here, three are instrumentals featured only on this re-released version of the album. “Lamentations IV” starts the album in bombastic fashion, “Ragnorok” closes it with heavy riffage and the staple Bells of Doom and “Empty Lies The Oaken Throne” serves as a half-way breather featuring beautifully-played acoustic guitars. If there is a problem to be found, it is that the album may tend to drag on a bit toward the end, perhaps with the long compositions and feeling of tangible Doom overstaying their welcome. I guess it’s all a matter of taste, as this will pose no problem to the hardened Doomster.
Despite all the use of descriptors such as “weeping,” “mournful,” and “tear-jerking,” don’t think for a moment that “Lamentations” is a wimp’s Metal album – no no no, this album also captures the true spirit of the Metal warrior! If you’re not convinced, just read an interview with Rich Walker and you’ll get all of the proof you need. That man must take iron supplements, he’s got so much Metal in his blood!
Few bands create such powerful albums on their debut recordings, but SOLSTICE has shown that they are a face in the crowd definitely worth recognizing. On one hand, you might call “Lamentations” “monotonous” or “boring,” but the same aspects that lead to those accusations lead me to call it “sombre” and “ethereal.” Furthermore, you might call it “powerful” and “epic.” Yep, I call it all that and “quality” to boot! (Online October 26, 2005)