Review Summary: Wintry frost, cloudy skies, rainy days, naked trees and chilly winds, put in sounds and delivered by the ones who know best: Dutch.
Doom/Death Metal music has always been the gloomiest yet the most experimental than any other metal genres. While some bands preferred to add string arrangements (like early My Dying Bride), or gothic elements (like Paradise Lost), others played with psychedelic sounds (like Tiamat) or adopted a more 70’s doom metal style (like Cathedral).
But no band had ever managed before to filter and incorporate all these experimental efforts in one single album like <strong>Celestial Season</strong> did.
<strong>Celestial Season</strong>, as numerous other bands, started out in the early 90’s as a typical doom/death metal band resembling to the respective British early efforts. The only thing worth mentioning about the band’s debut album <strong>Forever Scarlet Passion</strong> is that it came out from the mostly unknown Dutch metal scene. It offered nothing new however and the songs were at best of an average quality.
Their second release, <strong>Solar Lovers</strong>, which comes 2 years later (in 1995), finds the seven member band adopting a unique doom metal style and improving shockingly in all fields. Blending together heavy (really heavy!) slow guitar riffs with beautiful keyboard arrangements, stone rock influences (that later that year would turn into their main music style with the release of <strong>Sonic Orb EP</strong>), whispering and growling vocals and….2 violins, Celestial Season’s Solar Lovers resembles no other.
<strong>Decamerone</strong> that introduces the listener to the album’s unique atmosphere is a slow paced ultra melodic doom metal song (and one of the album’s highlights). But the neo romantic sense created doesn’t last long, as <strong>Solar Child</strong> that follows reveals the band’s first efforts to adopt a more stoner rock style. Solar Child’s guitars (as well as <strong>Dancing to a Thousand Symphonies</strong> that comes later) build a wall of heavy up tempo riffs and growling vocals that largely incorporate psychedelic 70’ rock influences. <strong>Soft Embalmer of the Still Midnight</strong> that follows returns to the doom/death roots and here the 2 violins (escorted by a cello) stop playing a minor role but somehow lead the song’s entire structure. It’s a sudden fall to despair, a sorrowful landscape, a sense of loss. That is what doom/death metal is all about anyway. And this song offers the best of it.
Only <strong>The Scent of Eve</strong> that closes Solar Lovers can equal this song as per melody, sadness and mourning. The whole album reaches its peak in the middle of this song, when violins and cellos take over. This is by far my most beloved track of Celestial Season – a masterpiece of poetically enchanting music combining the greatest of neo romantic elements along with heavy guitar riffs that characterize Solar Lovers.
What does come as a surprise however is the cover of <strong>Vienna</strong>. That cover (originally performed by 80’s best firework called Ultravox) underlines Solar Lover’s ultimate goal. To create a unique, romantic blend of sorrowful soundscapes with psychedelic influences by combining violins, keyboards, whispering voices, growling vocals and heavy melodic guitars. It’s rhythmic outbreak (with pianos, violins, cellos etc) after the second chorus is glorious and epic in any sense.
Overall, despite being characterized as a doom/death metal album, Solar Lovers does not just lead the listener to the dark and hopeless sceneries other bands prefer to create. It offers an unprecedented blend of neo romantic elements, exhilarating melodies and deeply emotional lyrics.
Celestial Season never managed to create anything equal – or at least close- to Solar Lovers. By turning to stone rock after this release, the band started wondering on paths already paved by so many others, offering nothing but an already chewed outcome that would raise no eyebrow.
Still Solar Lovers will remain the Dutch metal scene’s hidden jewel, and one of the most inspired and unique doom/death metal masterpieces of the previous decade.
- Unique not only in band’s history but also in the entire doom metal scene
- Extremely well performed and high level of musicianship
- Perfect string and keyboard arrangements that create a sorrowful yet romantic atmosphere
- A sense of romantic and enchanting sadness than of total despair
- Few indifferent instrumental fillings
- Vocals – therefore lyrics- are nearly impossible to be heard sometimes