Released: 2011, Massacre Records
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
Long running doom stalwarts Solitude Aeturnus have been fairly inactive since releasing ALONE back in 2006. Save for a live CD/DVD package and a handful of concert appearances, the band have pretty much been on ice. Robert Lowe has been busy with a bunch of Swedes in some other band, and the rest of the Soli-dudes have been keeping busy doing whatever it is that they do besides writing new Solitude Aeturnus music. So what’s a band to do with so much down time? Repackage their 1988 demo and see who’ll bite, that’s what! Okay, so I’m cynical. I’ve been a huge supporter of this band since I discovered BEYOND THE CRIMSON HORIZON back in ’92, but I’m perplexed about the intent of IN TIMES OF SOLITUDE. Basically a re-release of the AND JUSTICE FOR ALL demo with a handful of live tracks from the era, I’m not sure what the impetus was to release this now other than that John Perez needs beer money.
So here’s the thing. Solitude Aeturnus is a big deal in doom circles, but in the general context of “Metal,” they’re a pretty niche outfit. And being a release that’s essentially a comp of “rare/unreleased” material, it probably won’t do much to attract new audiences. But okay, it’s an “official” release of Solitude’s recorded genesis, fair enough. Here’s where things get tricky for me though. Robert Lowe is for all intents and purposes the voice/face/figurehead for Solitude Aeturnus, and has been since 1988. But Kris Gabehart was the band’s vocalist during the recording of this demo, and no disrespect to the guy, but his performance as a vocalist is painfully subpar in comparison to Lowe. The band revisited some of these tunes on their first couple of pro releases, and the difference is really night and day. Now before you throw rotten eggs at me for not cutting ‘em a break ‘cause it’s a re-release of a 20-year-old demo, hear me out. Nowhere in the press for IN TIMES OF SOLITUDE does it mention that you won’t hear Robert Lowe on these tunes. The press surrounding the release even goes so far to play up the fact that Lowe is also the current singer for Candlemass. I don’t know if it’s the band or the label pulling the strings here, but it just smells like Lowe’s notoriety (or the band’s legacy that was built around Lowe’s vocals) is being used to promote a release that he didn’t have anything to do with. I call shenanigans…
In all fairness, Lowe does make an appearance on one track, “Mirror of Sorrow,” which was taken from the band’s ’89 demo, but that’s it. And excellent track that it is, it doesn’t sound much different than what ended up on the band’s INTO THE DEPTHS OF SORROW debut. And it seems like it was tacked on as an afterthought. That ’89 demo only featured two tracks, but they couldn’t squeeze in “Opaque Divinity” here to make it a complete “demo collection? There’s some very rough sounding live/rehearsal tracks featuring Gabehart, but if there’s any incentive to pick this one up, it’s the packaging. The liner notes and rare pics of the band are quality stuff, and should be appreciated by the band’s hardcore fans.
But here’s my biggest beef with the whole damn thing – Solitude Aeturnus is one of those rare bands who get better with age. 2011 Solitude Aeturnus could most definitely whup the musical asses of 1988 Solitude Aeturnus any day of the week. This release is targeted towards a diligent population of the band’s fan base, who most likely already have a copy of this from prior reissues, bootlegs, tape trading, the internet, whatever (yeah, yeah, this is “official”). As a fan, I find it hard to believe that in the 2-decade long career of the band, there weren’t any more recent rarities/leftovers/unheard material sitting around (at least something featuring the band’s legacy lineup) that really would have been a fan pleaser.
IN TIMES OF SOLITUDE is for completists only. If you’re new to Solitude Aeturnus, start with ALONE and work your way backwards. This is a great band with a fantastic musical catalog, but this album doesn’t even begin to do either of them justice.