PICK OF THE WEEK: Solothus mash ache, misery into crushing doom on ashy ‘Realm of Ash and Blood’

What an utterly perfect time for doom. Normally at this time of the year, the sun is coming back, the leaves are starting to bud, and new life is on the horizon. But these are not normal times, they may not be again for a long time, and threatening shadows seem intent on canceling all of our hopes.

So, it is fitting we welcome back Finnish doom warriors Solothus, who are back with their third record “Realm of Ash and Blood.” This seven-track, nearly 43-minute opus follows 2016 offering “No King Reigns Eternal” and falls right in line with what their country (Skepticism, Thergothon for example) has contributed to the sub-genre for years. The band—vocalist Kari Kankaanpää, guitarists Veli-Matti Karjalainen and Aleksi Luukka, bassist Tami Luukkonen, drummer Juha Karjalainen—has been at it for 13 years now, so it’s not like they’re newcomers to this sound, but with the band now locked in with 20 Buck Spin, this record should get the band the most exposure they’ve had so far in North America, something they absolutely deserve. Not to mention this music sinks into your blood and affects your mood at a time when we’re all struggling, so look at this as a way to know you don’t suffer alone.

“Father Of Sickness” opens the record in a dour manner as riffs carve through, the growls gurgle, and a deathly pall darkens the skies even more. Leads lap and swim, the playing boils and bleeds, and misery dominates as the track drains out. “The Watcher” is punchy as hell as the music burns and howls, while the growls splatter blood all over. Gothy guitars rise up and cast a heavy shadow as the music rains down and floods the earth, and then the track begins trucking hard. The music smears darkness, soloing spills over, and the cut is hammered closed. “The Gallows’ Promise” drips in ominously as a sludgy beast kicks through the doors, and the growls unfurl. The track slowly hammers with pain as the playing chugs hard, while elegant leads rise up and begin to glimmer. The song quakes and releases molten lava, the growls hammer the earth, and the track swims into “Last Breath,” a quick instrumental that’s solemn with clean playing slowly trickling like blood down a snowy mountain, pooling at the bottom.

“Below Black Waters” smears and crumbles while it starts as the growls press down, and melody lets some liquid leak into the tar. Blackness then pools generously as the playing crashes down morbidly, and sorrowful leads carry it home. “Chasm of Shattered Bones” tramples down a darkened path as the track gets crunchy and fearsome, and growls slither, bringing with them terrible punishment. Things pick up when the guitars get meatier, and filthy riffs do physical and mental damage with growls cascading and the end burning out. “A Rain of Ash” is the 10:03-long closer and opens by penetrating your senses, battering your mind as growls hulk along, and then the pace starts moving faster. Brutal playing seeks to scorch flesh while a strong solo emerges, sending blinding light, and the growls drag you into a blood-caked tunnel. The track lurches along while Kankaanpää’s vocals scar, the tempo wrings every last drop from your veins, and the track buries itself in misery and echoes.

Awful times often call for music that conjures the most depressing and sullen of moods, and Solothus nail that on “Realm of Ash and Blood.” We are in unprecedented times for most of us, and while some may be trying to live positively—and good for them—others might need a sobering trip to the other side, where only the worst awaits. On top of all that, Solothus continue to add to their homeland’s stellar cast of doom warriors at a time where some people need them more than ever.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/Solothus

To buy the album, go here: https://www.20buckspin.com/solothus

For more on the label, go here: https://www.20buckspin.com/

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