Review Summary: Solace proudly present their classy, yet heavily layered songcraft that elevates them above the stoner metal fray.
There was an element of anticipation verging on annoyance involved in the release of "A.D.", the long-awaited third full-length album by New Jersey's Solace. Initially, the disc was supposed to be released in late 2007 shortly after the band's being signed up to Small Stone Records. Yet, it took the act plenty of time to come up with a worthwhile follower to 2003's "13", their most accomplished work to date and most certainly one of the very best stoner metal albums ever recorded. "13" was a breath of fresh air vigorously blending stoner and doom metal with a hint of hard rock thrown in. It highlighted the abilities of Solace as both supreme musicians and songwriters. The question arises then: Is "A.D." as good as its excellent predecessor? The answer is straightforward negative. However, the album still proves to be one of the most notable underground metal releases of the year.
It will come as a relief for fans that their style hasn't changed a lot throughout the long 7-year hiatus. It's still very much the same band effectively combining stoner and doom metal influences into a heavy-as-hell whirlwind of sound. The only aspect that differentiates "A.D." from the act's previous releases is a way clearer inclination towards more complex, less hook-driven compositions that hardly ever resemble the conventional verse-chorus song structure. That's why, "A.D." is most certainly their least accessible as well as most progressive disc. It's not really easy to encompass numerous tempo changes and layers of guitars in one go, yet getting acquainted with the album might be a stimulating experience.
Once again we are dealing with excellent musicians. Solace have been always about monstrous guitar riffs. This time around they seem even more sophisticated than before often involving impressive interplays between Tommy Southard and Justin Daniels (e.g. the bridge of "Borrowed Immunity"). In addition, the riffs are appropriately diverse ranging from infectiously slow stoner rock of "Six Year Trainwreck" to sheer full-fledged doom metal of "Za Gamman." For a change the guitarists often implement highly technical trash soloing as well as meditational art rock riffs resembling King Crimson ("The Immortal, the Dead and the Nothing" and "From Below"). Their cooperation seems to be surprisingly fluid and monolithic throughout the album. The rhythm section is also incredibly dynamic providing a constantly groovy core to the act's trademark guitar-oriented sound. As regards vocals, Jason delivers his extremely layered blend of melodic singing along with demented screams that made "13" so infectious. His vocals are always in line with the music, which is the skill that plenty of his contemporaries would be better off developing.
Even if the level of songwriting does not quite match "13", it's difficult to select any particular standout tracks with the album so stellar as this one. Opener "The Disillusioned Prohpet" is the most energetic and contains the most jaw-dropping vocal performance, while "The Immortal, the Dead and the Nothing" has some really captivating progressions going for it. Closer "From Beyond" is certainly the most epic track that works so well due to its catchy vocal melodies. "The Skull Of the Head of a Man" provides a welcome change of pace with its ultra-fast aggressive punk approach. There are some minor missteps and stale passages though. They're particularly apparent when the leading riffs to several songs overstay their welcome. Making more selective choices in the production process should have easily eradicated this problem.
Other than that, Solace proudly present their classy, yet heavily layered songcraft that elevates them above the fray. "A.D." reflects the act's grand aspirations with an expertly produced hybrid of stoner, doom and progressive metal. Still underground and underappreciated by most, this is one of these obscure albums that just deserve to be heard by any means. Highly recommended.