Music review

Dear Sister: In Solitude Continue Sweden’s Metal Mastery

Sweden has been contributing to the world of metal for decades, but even now in 2013, they always seem to surprise the metal community. Even after bringing legends like Messhugah and stars like In Flames to life, the recent years have been kinder than ever to Swedish metal and the bands it brews. As if this year’s Ghost B.C. album, Infestissumam wasn’t enough, Sweden brings another group of rising metal mavens to North America with In Solitude. Though they’ve been making music for more than a decade, the Uppsala quintet continue to explore the most revered sanctuaries of metal might. In Solitude’s third album is able to rival its stomping and brooding peers in doom metal, but the band’s insistence on capturing the melodic power of Black Sabbath is what makes Sister an album that sneaks past the feet of the monstrous colossi of the genre, all while making a dent in the hull of metal as a whole.

In Solitude’s sound is difficult to classify, but in a great way. They clearly have a respect and reverence for the doom metal titans Black Sabbath. The guitar riffs from axemen Niklas Lindström and Henrik Palm don’t possess the echoing tones of later doom metal bands like Trouble or Pentagram; instead, the guitarists add a rough and energetic tone, one straight out the book of Tony Iommi. By keeping the pace just upbeat enough to prompt experimentation, the songs sound much more characterized. “Pallid Hands” uses the same tones and notes that Black Sabbath made magical, but unlike the countless doom metal bands of the 2000’s onward, In Solitude don’t sound sluggish on Sister. The songs are actually quite interesting compositions, with plenty of fluid guitar solos and vocalist Pelle Åhman sounding off notes like Baroness’ John Baizley, performers far beyond the gloom of doom. In Solitude inject some much-needed personality into a genre whose standards and formulas have been running on fumes lately, and it’s a great gesture from these Swedish go-getters.

But the band still stays firmly fortified in the lower tones and dark chords of the heavier sides. Despite its ripping guitar lines, the title track has Pelle Åhman complemented by echoing effects and the bell-like bass tones from Gottfrid Åhman sound like psalms for a sermon after dark. Drummer Uno Bruniusson rounds out the quintet with remarkably virtuoso drumming variety. While not enough to rival the prog drummer greats like Tool’s Danny Carey or even Sabbath drum legend Bill Ward himself, it’s incredible hearing a fluid, almost jazzy drumming style in metal, one that’s groovy enough to get a circle pit going amongst the bass kicks and snare fills. Sister is an album that does just enough to stay in its genre of choice, but doesn’t follow the supposed status quo directed by the weighted, lurching beasts of modern doom metal. It’s remarkably varied and lets the band experiment with both melody and tone in shockingly creative ways.

At only eight tracks, Sister does end a bit prematurely. While the diversity between the tracks is definitely noticeable, when the songs crack an average of around five minutes, some opportunities seem to be missed. Despite the song’s nice mixture of tone and rhythm, each song stays within its own bubble. Tempo changes aren’t common, so the over-consistency in the tracks themselves is disappointing. The guys in In Solitude clearly have a wealth of talent across multiple metal fields, so it would’ve been even greater to hear another fresh track or two by the album’s end.

After listening to Sister in its entirety, it’s tough to call In Solitude a doom metal album exclusively. It really isn’t one. It’s dark, but not brooding; dramatic, but not sluggish. By taking cues from 70’s metal instead of modern doom metal, In Solitude manage to bring something fresh to the world of epic, dark and atmospheric metal symphonies. There are so many memorable elements to Sister, but the most resounding success is the band’s ability to combine thunderous rhythms with nimble guitar and vocal melodies. Even at its worst, Sister is refreshing, a diamond in the rough for the genre that takes notes from unexpected influences and interesting metal subgenres. It’s difficult to envision where In Solitude will go from here, but rest assured that Sister is a solid album that challenges conventions while never buckling its own weight. Check it out.