Review Summary: In Solitude signify the twilight of their idols.
Metalheads tend to debate a lot about bands having a voice of their own or not. There are the so-called “elitists”, who are in exclusive pursuit of originality, saying that derivative bands should be cast to the fire, and there are those who fancy discovering outfits that bring yesterday to today. The said debate gets even more intense about outfits residing in the grey area, bands that revisit the days of old, but have a way of bringing something of their own to the table sooner or later. For not so obvious reasons, one such band is Sweden’s In Solitude. See, when Mercyful Fate had risen from their tomb in the early ‘90s and during their near-10-year course, the world of metal rejoiced as none other outfit than MF themselves could reproduce that eerie ‘80s occult metal of albums such as Melissa
and Don’t Break The Oath
. As for King Diamond’s vocals, there wasn’t even a slightest hint of another vocalist coming remotely near, let alone walking along his characteristic vocal trails.
The above were a dogmatic certainty up until 2009, where bands like In Solitude and Portrait came to the surface and crushed the said perceptions to their own merit. In Solitude in particular, amazed the underground with the dark, complex at times, ‘80s heavy metal of their eponymous debut album, and the superb vocal work of heavy metal crooner Pelle Åhman. The departure of guitarist Mattias Gustafsson after In Solitude
, combined with his replacement by Niklas Lindström, brought a mere shift in style in the follow-up album The World. The Flesh. The Devil
. The band continued to operate under the Mercyful Fate influence, only this time the already present NWOBHM incentives were enhanced, while some atmospheric/goth/psych elements made a minor, but perceivable appearance in the album. The World. The Flesh. The Devil
inherited a great deal of merit and momentum from its predecessor, yet elitists started speculating about In Solitude being something more than “just” an impressive retro metal band. In what feels as an atypical answer to all concerned parties, the new In Solitude album, titled Sisters
, sees the band in signifying the twilight of their idols.
In most cases, changes in style go hand in hand with adjustments in the album art, and Sister
could be easily misunderstood as an unreleased album by early ‘80s post-punk/goth outfits such as Bauhaus, Joy Division and their peers. Truth is that In Solitude’s affinity for these sounds had already been revealed in their sophomore effort, but this time around, the Swedes from Uppsala make it quite clear that they were inspired by the said outfits, and that they are through worshipping other bands. The said vibes are very well concealed and any attempt to reference the album sites where they reside, would seem subjective, even forced. The only number hinting directly at the said outfits (Bauhaus in particular) is the acoustic dirge “He Comes”, the album opener. Pelle’s cavernous crooning in that song, stands as a universal reference for the whole album, even when he is literally spitting his guts out, sounding at times like an angry version of Robert Smith (“Pallid Hands”) or Dave Gahan (“A Buried Sun”).
The Mercyful Fate/NWOBHM worshipping days belong to the past not only for Pelle, but for the rest of the band as well. It has to be said though that Pelle’s vocal frequencies will always
remind King Diamond in his MF days, and that degree of freedom comes with its own merits and demerits. In the light of what was mentioned in the previous paragraph, In Solitude are paying a non-trivial visit to a number of musical locations. While they are instantaneously hard rocking under the influence of the Devil’s blood, they also give in to doom/blues rock on a couple of occasions. Eventually, they end up lighting the different corners of an energetic, improvisational “heavy rock/metal” that’s fairly distanced from the traditional versions of both genres. The good thing is that all songs have a character of their own and hence an appreciable replay value. The latter is also sustained by the sound production, one of most lively ones to have ever been realized in recent years.
When all is said; before the release of Sister
, the debate about In Solitude revolved around their awesome (to the brink of “groundbreaking”) obsession in worshipping Mercyful Fate and NWOBHM and whether they were better or worse than their retro metal peers. With Sister
, the Swedes from Uppsala move away from their prior status, as they attempt to explore something that even they cannot adequately describe, when asked. Chances are that in years to come, fans and the band will go back to this album and still debate about what were the actual initiatives in making it. Let’s hope that as time passes on, more bands will lead themselves and their respective audiences to this state of uncertainty.