Review Summary: A landmark in the epic doom style, New Dark Age's strong folk elements compliment it's mix of melodeath-esque heaviness and more traditional doom styles perfectly.
For a "New Dark Age", Solstice's sophomore effort is rather bright. The English band's first effort, Lamentations
, evidenced many of the more common traits of doom metal and in general was as sorrowful as its name would indicate, with very competent musicianship and especially vocals; tracks like "Neither Time Nor Tide" are worth putting in any avid doom-metaller's collection. By contrast, New Dark Age takes a shift in a much more melodic and more folk influenced direction, in many ways fore-running the epic doom style, and as a result, whilst much less melancholic than Lamentations, it's easily among the best doom metal albums of all time.
New Dark Age thrives on its atmosphere, but as mentioned prior, it's a markedly different atmosphere than before. Lead guitars soar triumphantly over energetic and decidedly epic riffs, whilst the vocals follow a decidedly less droning and much more rousing style. In addition, the production, whilst hardly a fault on Lamentations
is much clearer and less bassy here, adopting a more polished but still fairly rough style that suits the more energetic style adopted.
The risks taken on this album are quite clear from the get go. The Sleeping Tyrants
opening resembles something In Flames
would write but still works fantastically due to the excellent leads powering it forward, whilst evading the trap of travelling too far from Solstice's prior doom influences. The presence of the folk track Blackthorne
, which is over 5 minutes in length (longer than most regular tracks on metal albums!) simultaneously indicates the sheer ambition of this album and also serves to provide an effective drop in intensity, which while not desperately necessary, still works. In particular, the rolled syllables in the rather effortless vocal performance help with the delivery of the song in particular, but elsewhere they work excellently as well. Other highlights include Cimmerian Codex
, and the album's most accessible track, Hammer Of Damnation
, all of which are over 8 minutes in length but don't drag in any noticeable way in respect to the doom genre.
Whilst the prior statement does inherently imply that this album might drag a little compared to others outside of its genre, that's basically the only real fault. For the initiated doom, or even prog and power metal fan, this album is practically an essential listen. Whilst Lamentations
might suit a doom purist's fancy better, New Dark Age is both more accessible and more ambitious, and it pays off massively.