In Solitude surpass metal’s boundaries yet get even darker on third record ‘Sister’

Ester Segarra
It’s always exciting to watch a young band grow. I’m talking a band you pretty much know from the start has something special and should only get better as time goes on and they get more experience. It doesn’t always work out favorably in the long run, but every now and again you run into a group that always knows what steps to take next and seems to know where they’re headed.

I remember seeing In Solitude open the first Decibel Magazine Tour, taking the stage before more well-known heavy hitters The Devil’s Blood, Watain, and Behemoth. They played with a swagger and a confidence of a band that could have been the headliners by the way they carried themselves, and when they launched into their set, they showed it wasn’t just image as they had the chops to complement their stage presence. The audience got it, especially the younger members who seemed to be in awe, and something very special was starting to play out before everyone’s eyes.

in solitude coverIn Solitude have been on the rise since their eye-opening, self-titled 2008 debut, and their sophomore record “The World. The Flesh. The Devil.” in 2011 cemented the fact that this band was ready to explode in a big way, becoming a new hope for heavy metal, a band that would stay true to their roots and let them grow into the future. And then “Sister” arrived, and things changed. Well, their promise and ability to deliver killer records did not. This third platter is captivating front to back, but they changed things. No longer were we hearing a band grounded in early Iron Maiden and Mercyful Fate, though some of those traits remain. Instead, they’re branching off in a different direction, embracing gothic and ’80s-style post-punk to come up with something that should shake up not only metal’s foundations, but those of the entire rock world as well. This is a big one.

One of the band’s primary forces is frontman Pelle Åhman, whose deep, direct, quivering voice is a thing to behold, and it’s impossible not to hang onto every one of his dark, foreboding stories. He said in a Decibel piece he doesn’t want to be seen as the centerpoint of the band, but when you’re as good as this guy, it’s hard not to be trumpeted. Joining him are guitarists Henrik Palm and Niklas Lindstrom, bassist Gottfrid Åhman (Pelle’s brother), and drummer Uno Bruniusson. They remain heavy and riveting as a band, but they don’t simply adhere to metal on “Sister,” instead letting other sounds enter the fray, making their approach even darker, which is hard to believe. But it’s true, and you know it from the start that you’re into something really different.

“He Comes” is a weird, acoustically led introduction with a chilling melody and entrance door for, yeah, the devil. It’s echoey and haunting, and it works really well as a gate opener. “Death Knows Where” blows open right from the opener’s fumes, with strong guitar lines, a goth feel to the melodies, and a really strong chorus that should work to ignite crowds live. That takes us into the epic of the collection, “A Buried Sun,” that runs over seven minutes and is moody, sometimes a little slower, and wholly mournful. Of course, things ignite eventually, with a trudging bassline and Pelle sounding like a more possessed Ian Astbury, and it’s one of those glaring examples of just how much this band has grown. “Pallid Hands” is a great cut that digs back into those post-punk sounds referenced earlier, with commanding vocals and scorching guitar work that stands as the loudest on this entire set.

The second half of the record kicks off with “Lavender,” a song that sounds like an old Dokken track when it opens and really is the only thing on here that doesn’t excite me. It’s not a bad song, mind you, just not one I’ve repeatedly gone back to visit, though I do enjoy the psychedelic-tinged guitar work, That takes us into the title track, one of the most mysterious songs in the band’s entire arsenal and also one of their best. “Night was no longer as we knew her,” Pelle howls, as the band backs him up with dark sounds and some really strong soloing. “Horses in the Ground” serves up a nice slab of ’70s-style doom, with the band galloping away into a dark edge of the forest, where they’re met by one of the great sirens of all time, Jarboe, who rises like an apparition and delivers a haunting monologue. The song is episodic and dramatic, and it’s another one that shows just how far these guys have come as songwriters. Closer “Inmost Nigredo” has a slow, smoky opening, making it seem like they might slow burn you the rest of the way, but the band has other ideas. The song eventually runs into a Sabbath-style flow of lava, with the intensity and drama building, and the band creating an incredible burn-it-to-the-ground conclusion that should leave you enthralled and breathless.

In Solitude are on an incredible creative roll, and as they progress and log more miles on the road, spiritually together as a band, and as songwriters, they should just keep getting better. This is a fantastic, potential-surpassed record that’s already topped one year-end list and certainly will place high on many others for very good reason. Hopefully they maintain their grasp of the darkness and keep burning their way through the rest of the metal world to the throne where they belong.

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