Review Summary: This is a comeback album done right.
Solstice was born into an already thriving Floridian death metal scene that was the early 90’s. Like so many other death metal bands of that era, Solstice were overshadowed, and perhaps never given a real chance to shine despite the production of two excellent albums in ’92 and ’95. None of this should matter, though, as long as the music is pleasing to the ear. In this case, even after a fourteen year hiatus, Solstice delivers yet again.
For anyone who has not heard Solstice, their brand of thrashy and constantly pissed off death metal is most akin to a “Consuming Impulse” era Pestilence. Although with a different vocalist than the self-titled debut, “To Dust” showcases scathing vocals most easily compared to an early Martin Van Drunen. Almost always closer to a higher pitched rasp than a growl, the vocals are a fitting complement to the chaotic guitar work.
To summarize the album’s sound, look no further than the opening track “Black.” The buzz saw guitars and tortured vocals greet the listener like an uppercut to the balls at six in the morning. Blast beats and tempo changes abound, this is one hell of an opener. The momentum carries over into the following title track and obvious highlight of the album. Best showcased here is the stellar lead and solo work of guitarist Dennis Munoz. The solo three quarters into the song is so sugary sweet and overflowing with melody that it might very well be impossible not to love. Solo nuts take note: this is an album for you.
It is often debated whether to label Solstice as death, thrash, or death/thrash. This is never more apparent than on “Sovereignty.” The song starts familiarly enough, but if the head bobbing groove/thrash section around 1:20 doesn’t get the blood pumping, then nothing will. The song then slows down and sets the stage for another incredible solo, and before it can truly be appreciated, the band collectively pummels the listener into oblivion.
The unsung hero of “To Dust” is undoubtedly the crystal clear production. Something that is often hard to pull off and sound right in a death metal album is a more polished sound. It is certainly no detractor here, and definitely adds to the overall sound. The production most obviously highlights the drum work of Brian Harris, which is always sharp but never too flashy. Harris can certainly amp up the speed and blast with the best of them, but always knows when to slow down, simplify, and let the other group members rock the *** out. An unfortunate death metal trend is continued on “To Dust” in the fact that the bass is almost nonexistent. But this may be the only negative aspect on the entire album. Every track is highly enjoyable, the sound never becomes stale or too formulaic, and the band even throws in a nice cover of Cynic’s “Textures.”
From incredibly beautiful solos to furiously chugging rhythm guitars, this album has something for every metal fan. Thrash connoisseurs will appreciate the speed and often galloping guitar work, while death metal aficionados will value the tormented vocals and frequent tempo changes. This is a comeback album done right.