Solanum – Ruled By The Cruel
Reviewed: May 2021
Released: 2021, HPGD Productions
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
As I’ve previously recounted, I’m kind of ambivalent to the whole crossover scene, but when it’s good, it can be really good. Take the first No Mercy album, anything from late 80’s Cro-Mags or D.R.I., or even new jacks like Insanity Alert; all of those bands know how to grab and keep hold of your attention. I got a similar vibe listening to Solanum’s sophomore full length, RULED BY THE CRUEL. Though the album doesn’t entirely rule, it still comes pretty close and offers a lot of fun along the way.
First off, vocalist Cam McFee sounds A LOT like early Billy Milano, but without all of the extra baggage and bullshit. So right away that makes RULED BY THE CRUEL already sound kinda sorta familiar, even if it’s unintentional. But as a band, Solanum has a penchant for crafting memorable tunes with plenty of biting riffs and crunchy breakdowns. Album opener “Cold Career” is a mid-tempo slugger loaded with slam and flying fists, but things get really fun on more breakneck tracks like “Friendly Civil Servant” and the chonky, Exodus-infused flavor of “Under the Boot.” The biggest drawback on RULED BY THE CRUEL is that Solanum’s formula tends to retread a lot of familiar territory, even within the walls of its own 9 tracks. But killer standouts like the aforementioned tunes and the gang chants of “They Live” definitely rise above the filler, and it’s those kinds of tunes that have kept me coming back for more.
I didn’t have much in the way of expectations for RULED BY THE CRUEL out of the gate, but color me pleasantly surprised. Solanum is proof that you don’t have to be revolutionary with your craft, you just have to be good at what you do. Delivering some pit worthy jams that’ll inspire you to pull out your high tops and acid wash jeans (as if you every put those away, pshaw), RULED BY THE CRUEL is the crossover album of the season you didn’t know you needed.