Released: 2007, Locomotive Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
After taking an eight year break, the Texas-based doom metal colossus, Solitude Aeturnus, finally returns with what is arguably their best effort to date and will clearly be one of the finest slabs of doom to hit shelves this year. Titled simply, ALONE, John Perez and Steve Moseley, who has moved from bass to second guitar, provide slow, agonizing riffs and the new rhythm section of James Martin and Steve Nichols settles in for a solid, rumbling backbeat. The band’s secret weapon, though, is vocalist Robert Lowe. Easily the best doom metal vocalist today, Lowe was recently recruited to fill the spot of Messiah Marcolin in Candlemass which says a lot for his reputation and talent as a singer. Lowe’s tremendous vocal range adds so much to ALONE in terms of atmospherics and depth that it is difficult to imagine how these songs would sound without him. With Lowe at the forefront of Candlemass’ brilliant new CD, THE KING OF THE GREY ISLANDS, it is obvious that the world will finally realize what the singer has to offer and while that gig will surely garner greater attention than Solitude Aeturnus, ALONE will receive significant attention—and deservedly so—as a result.
A rising clean guitar opens “Scent of Death” before the guitar crunch of Perez and Moseley takes over. Melancholy, anguished and slow in pace, the track nearly hits ten minutes and is doom personified. Lowe’s stellar vocals capture the mood perfectly and whether he screams, hangs on a soaring note or unleashes his cries of “buried in blood” just beyond the eight-minute mark, it is awe-inspiring to hear. “Sightless” features an opening guitar salvo that works the whammy bar but also throbs with traditional heavy metal excellence. Perez and Moseley bring a vague Middle Eastern tone to the riffs and the solo simply cooks. The guitarists bring “Upon Within” some progressive elements and the subtle keyboard flourishes add some psychedelic overtones, as well. Nods to Candlemass can be found on “Blessed Be The Dead” with a painfully slow tempo and especially in Lowe’s anguished wails. Likewise, “Burning” oozes with misery behind the thick riffs and lengthy solo that will draw instant comparisons to Dio-era Black Sabbath. “Waiting For The Light” locks into a fierce, head-banging groove that brings a real accessibility to the otherwise closed-off genre of doom. “Tomorrow’s Dead” ripples with doom excellence and the double-bass of Nichols really adds a keen element to the song. What is most surprising, though, is the ultra-catchy chorus. Lowe wraps his buttery-smooth voice around the melody here creating a section that is simply unforgettable.
It is a rare thing that a doom album compels the listener to reach for it again and again, craving the riffs, melodies and overall power like a junkie needing a fix. This is exactly the response generated by Solitude Aeturnus’ return on ALONE, though. This album begs to be listened to again and again and I found myself hitting play immediately after the last track finished. By strange coincidence, ALONE and Candlemass’ new one elicit similar feelings and it is undoubtedly due to the vocal prowess of Robert Lowe. Not to downplay the contributions of the rest of the band on ALONE, either, as each member is integral to the ambience and success of this album but Lowe’s presence is simply indispensable. Every song crackles with intensity and the melodic hooks are always present behind the slow, churning bisque of doom-laden, concrete riffing. Add some stunningly powerful vocals delivered with class, grace and emotion and it all equals a spectacular hour spent in heavy metal nirvana. ALONE is a masterpiece of heavy metal and everything that is right about doom today. Put simply, ALONE is essential listening that will reside in my Top 5 albums of 2007 (***NOTE: ALONE was released in Europe in late 2006 but only received release in North America in March 2007).
KILLER KUTS: “Scent of Death,” “Sightless,” “Waiting For The Light,” “Upon Within,” “Tomorrow’s Dead,” “Essence of Black”