Review Summary: This is certainly some of the darkest music ever created. The brooding mini-orchestra and Wakeford's strong tone and lyricism all contribute to one huge sound. Folk doesn't always mean simple.
People often refer to metal as the most atmospheric and usually the most evil sounding music in the world today. Metal fans certainly have an argument. The relentless wall of sound coming from thrashing guitars and pounding drums and the often extremely dissonant music makes the perfect soundtrack for everyone’s fantasy evil. But I am here to tell all of you that the darkest album in modern music is a folk album. Nothing compares to Sol Invictus’ In the Rain.
But wait, isn’t a folk album usually just a guy and his guitar? Yes, usually, but this album is different. Tony Wakeford, a folk artist who released this album over 10 years into his career as a folk artist, pulled in a mini-orchestra to accompany him and his explorations on In the Rain. He uses violins, cellos, trumpets, and piano along with his guitar and voice to create a truly evil atmosphere. One will be hard-pressed to find a major tonality on this album. The dark, dissonant style of the music never lets go, a relentless tug on the heartstrings. The band creates a rush of melodies, although often in the same manner in every song. The cello provides the bass tone and the violin plays a melody that throws in color tones and adds to the chordal structure. A faint acoustic guitar melody often sits in the background and outlines the chord progression. It seems that Wakeford writes his songs based on these guitar melodies, as they alone make a song. These guitar melodies give the folk tinge to this music. Other instruments, such as brass or piano add even more melodic structure to the song. Piano often opposes the guitar melody, ascending when the guitar descends or vice versa. Finally, Wakeford adds in simple percussive instruments only to accent certain high points of the album. This grandiose folk music allows Sol Invictus to garner a somewhat pin-pointing genre, neofolk.
With all this melodic structure, Wakeford needs to do little with his voice to create amazing music. It is already there. However, he adds even more atmosphere with his voice and his lyrics. He possesses a clearly British accent and it comes through in his voice, creating a somewhat medieval aura about the music. Wakeford sings with a strong, deep voice. The quality and intonation lacks at some points, and his voice takes a few listens to get used to, but he creates music that suits his voice perfectly. Despite his strange voice, his lyrical content shines on this album. He sings about the inevitability death, the downfall of love, and the imperfections of life. Wakeford crafts his lyrics around classical allusions, extended metaphors, and simple rhyme schemes. The title track showcases his rhyme schemes, metaphors, and allusions all in one stanza.
Cupid's leering; let the game begin
He shoots the arrow, and our lives spin
Poison flows through our viper hearts
Put down our knives and raise a glass
Although Cupid is a weak classical allusion, almost cliché, he puts enough originality in his lyrics that it doesn’t matter. The rest of the title track showcases all the musical points of Sol Invictus in one track. The song slowly builds from a simple guitar melody, to that aforementioned rush of melodies including piano, cello, violin, and some dainty bells above the soundscape. The song effortlessly flows between different sections, going into chorus and verse without any real noticeable change in feel. In the Rain
puts the essence of the entire album into one song.
However, that’s not to say that Sol Invictus relies on one sound entirely. In Days to Come
is a much more rhythmic affair, opening with every instrument playing the same rhythm. The homorhythmic section allows for Wakeford to sing without any sound under him. The chorus breaks into a more melodic section, allowing the violin to go off into its own realm. Amazingly, Wakeford transitions these two sections flawlessly with no breaks in the music at all. The song uses standard instrumentation, although some tribal percussion accents the homorhythmic section. Lyrically, the song makes pagan references, a known theme for all of the neofolk movement. The album also gives plenty of opportunity for the instrumentals to shine. The opening and closing songs are purely instrumental, although the opener is simply an abridged version of the closer. Europa in the Rain
builds upon a haunting cello line. A violin melody fills in the space of the cello line, which sets the precedent for the rest of the song. The song continually builds as the violins get frantically higher and higher and pounding percussion drives the song along. An orchestral, pizzicato strum closes out the album, about as fitting as it could get.
There is no bad song on this album. Every song is just as dark and brooding as the next, and the entire album gives off an incredibly epic feel. Falls Like Rain
, with a slight bit of electric instrumentation, feels as if it could burst into a huge metal song at any moment, much in an Opeth manner. The whole epic feel conveyed even by acoustic instrumentation is what Opeth wishes they could do with their acoustic sections. The problems with this album are few. The tempo never varies much throughout the album; however, the general tempo is quick enough that nothing drags along the way. Wakeford’s voice needs a bit more strength in the bigger sections, but his diction and tone save this from being a huge issue. For some, the constant minor progressions may get tiresome, but a dominantly major tonality would ruin the entire atmosphere of the album. It is purely evil, dark, and brooding, and it does a superb job at that.
Europa in the Rain
In the Rain
Falls Like Rain
In Days to Come