Review Summary: The misty moors and barren fields leave you with but one guide…
After reviewing roughly similar music for an extended period, it becomes hard at times to separate the features you love so much from unbiased ridicule. It becomes harder when an act engages you in a way where you know you’ll keep coming back, without expectation, simply to enjoy the sensual ride. Starlight’s Guide
borders on the atmospheric tendencies found on Joe Hawker’s debut and redirects them into a reinterpretation of a recent split, and with it comes a more melodic approach with sensible transitions. What needs to be remembered are the humble foundations on which the one man project, Of Solitude and Solemn is built from. Hawker, who admits freely the use of his own bedroom as a makeshift studio doesn’t just record the music, but also mixes, masters and promotes it from the same room. It shows a dedication to put your music freely out in the world without the backing of a label or professional studio with a risk of opinion coming crashing down around you. For Starlight’s Guide
it largely pays off.
For smaller acts, the flaws can be instantly noticeable. The programmed drums may be a turn off for some, but they don’t become overbearing or dominate the instrumental affair. They stay relatively in the background doing exactly what they’re meant to, hold the band’s timing and thicken the overall sound. If the question was: Would Of Solitude and Solemn benefit from a live drum track? The answer would be yes, but it all comes down to the humble recording process of a one manned act. As it stands however Of Solitude and Solemn’s drum program takes very little away from this three tracked, half hour affair of smooth post metal.
While largely instrumental, some vocal passages do appear in the recording. They add to the overall makeup of Hawker’s music, but remain balanced throughout. At no point do they force their way through the tumult of atmospherics or translucent clean guitar tones. It’s easier to see Hawker’s vocals as another instrument, extending on a rather verbose sound rather than telling the story of isolation, despair and hope found in the instrumental aspect of the music. At times, Joe’s clean vocals may underplay their hand; they need to find more force to create a stronger bond with the listener. When compared to the power found in the screamed, shrieked vocal work, it identifies itself as two very separate components that don’t actually call and respond off the other, creating a new dynamic for the listener – although for a home grown, three-tracked EP it’s not really that much of an issue.
Overall, there’s still a lot of promise to be found here. With an advanced production those continuous synths would have better room to breathe, the clean vocals will find a better presence and as a whole the music would be more cohesive. Granted there’s not a lot missing from Of Solitude and Solemn’s sound. Tracks like “Guiding Light” present a man bringing a range of influences together into a single track. With more ideas and a longer running time, a song like this could become an opus, standing alone as a definite piece. Starlight’s Guide
is a window into the mind of Hawker, but it’s not rammed down the listeners’ throat instead it floats within arms reach ready to be plucked from the air. Fortunately for Mr Joe Hawker, there’s yet time, a lot of time for the ideas to develop, grow and expand into a transcendental wave of post rock/metal emotion. This will not be the last piece we hear from this particular act, the guide will complete his journey.