Review Summary: With their gazes fixed on space, Solterra delivers one convincing take on the concept.
There is a fine line between a band evolving their sound and changing their sound. The real question is whether the alterations were intentional. Some bands in an effort to evolve their sound end up instead completely changing it and unfortunately alienating some of their old fans in the process. To evolve takes subtlety, finesse, and a certain type of creativity. With Umbra
, Solterra have proven to all they possess these attributes and reaffirm to fans they still can write some downright chill songs. Umbra displays a loyal adherence to their distinct sound showcased Soul >> Earth >> Sun
and injects just enough but not too much unique flair and new ideas to make it a thoroughly enjoyable listen.
If there is a theme to Umbra
it would have to be the vastness of space. The word “umbra” is normally used to discuss the shadows cast by celestial bodies and means “shadow” in Latin. This connection is obviously intentional and fits the music very well. With most of the 7 songs going over the 5 minute mark, this EP is indeed a sort of miniature journey. The songs all soar and crescendo effortlessly with spoken-word interludes peppered in, enhancing the mood. Delay effects and subtle electronic synths also add to the spacy effect Umbra was going for.
Soul >> Earth >> Sun
was very much a calm alternative instrumental record which displayed with all sorts of musical ideas. This kept the listener on their toes yet slightly detracted from the continuity of the album as a whole. With Umbra
, the band has definitely waded into the progressive metal side of the pool. Now this doesn’t mean loud blast beats galore and low-toned, high-gain guitars, but the riffs and drums unmistakably have a metal edge to them at many points throughout the EP. Songs like the excellent finale “Contagion” and “Window Seat” (especially the former) are the prime examples of this new focus on metal-sounding riffs. The band never gets cheesy or gimmicky with The Metal however, still retaining their Solterra sound fans will recognize. Switching from the stormy sound to the calm and back again occurs very naturally throughout the record and as a result the listener is never released from the music’s concept.
Comparisons are easily made between Umbra
and Soul >> Earth >> Sun
which depending on your sensibilities can be a good or bad thing. While there is indeed a concept and focus to Umbra
not heard in Soul >> Earth >> Sun
, cursory listens can reveal little difference in the non-metal portions in terms of songwriting. In both, the bass for the most part is non-existent, and the guitar play hasn’t changed much. Production however has made the drums stand out and really helps the EP feel full.
Fortunately The Metal hasn’t taken over Umbra
. Much like their previous release, soft, yet powerful effects and interludes portray a serene, almost fantastical view of outer space and exudes a feel very much like Incubus’ masterpiece “Morning View”. Solterra do a very good job of both keeping their sound and molding it into a convincing spacy concept. Treading the thin line of experimentation, evolution, and change is a daunting task for a band to accomplish well but when it is, it’s very pleasing to experience. Fans of the band will feel right at home with Umbra
, and while the sound hasn’t changed so much as to attract new listeners, those people are sorely missing out.