Review Summary: Whereas Nightmares in the Waking State, Part 1 was Solution .45's least interesting album, Part 2 turns out to be their most.
Glaring discrepancies between the quality of supposedly twin albums happen sometimes, and when they do, they are as baffling as they are difficult to explain. After Solution .45's last year offering, everyone except perhaps the most hardcore fans, was left with a bitter taste in their mouth after witnessing how unremarkable the album was. Understandably, expectations concerning the follow-up were tempered. But turns out we are in for a pleasant surprise after all.
Solution .45 with Nightmares in the Waking State, Part 2
really leave what based on their previous albums can be assumed to be their comfort zone, while also finally beginning to establish a really distinct sound that can be called their own. What used to be a Scar Symmetry/Disarmonia Mundi tribute band and little else, has now begun to carve out a niche. While the band for the most part preserves the riffing patterns they've been known for, it's the arrangements these riffs find themselves surrounded by that make all the difference in the world.
Mediocre to bad songwriting is mostly gone in favor of songs featuring nonstandard structures, full-on progressive metal elements, and even more-than-token ambient and drone touches. The songs are written in a much more seamless manner and create much better wholes than for instance the band's glorified but ultimately failed prog song effort, Clandestinity Now
. This time the guys didn't try to bite off more than they can chew, with the longest song clocking in at 7:22, and this approach serves them really well, as Built on Sand
ends imperceptibly, feeling much shorter than it is in reality. The entire listening experience of Part 2
is more as if one was listening to toned-down progressive metal than upbeat, poppy melodeath the band was previously known for - it is though by no means a bad thing. It is entirely heartening to see the direction the guys are taking the project in.
With the illustrious Christian Älvestam on vocals, it is obvious he deserves a mention too. Even in spite of his already respectable prowess, his performance on this effort gives the impression that he has been working to improve his technique still. His clean vocals sound better than ever, especially in the highest registers, where he has greatly improved his tone, flexibility and freedom - further augmented by the fact of an extremely favorable production. The choruses and clean parts themselves have always been hit or miss with Solution .45, with several great ones and many lacking ones on the previous outings, but this time around they are practically all spot on - a "less is more" approach is taken, with melodies generally being simpler and notes held for longer, which definitely succeds in making them more memorable. Consequently, the choruses are extremely catchy and rewarding, even though (or perhaps even more so that) they mostly find themselves in mid to downtempo, droning, progressive songs rather than simplistic "Death Jovi" anthems of the past, one outlier being the surprisingly upbeat and cheeky Misery Mantra
, a great way to break up the album towards the end. Growls over uplifting 12 string guitar riffs are just one of many unexpected tastes and touches this album has in store.
Nightmares in the Waking State, Part 2
is a veritable treat for all fans of Älvestam's vocal prowess. Moreover, the results of songwriting experimentation on this album are sometimes really spectacular and are one of these instances where one is forced to think that for bands to try new things every once in a while can indeed be a great thing (In Flames, don't take this to heart please). Seeing how such good songs are pulled off so seemingly easily, it only begs the question: "Was it so hard to do earlier""