One of the greatest joys in following music is to watch bands grow. Especially, if you have been into their albums since the very beginning. When you come across a band that shows big leaps with every record released, things start to get interesting. Those kind of bands become with time “yours”, and will always be remembered that way.
Solothus, from Finland, have been a band I have been following for quite a while now. Even before their debut album, “Summoned from the Void”, released through Memento Mori in 2013 was out. They have proven to be a worthy live band in many occasions, but what is even more remarkable has been their ability to develop with each release.
Even though their “No King Reigns Eternal” album in 2016 was a huge leap ahead, there was quite nothing that could have warned us about their upcoming release “Realm of Ash and Blood”, their first record on new contract with 20 Buck Spin. Shit, I was expecting a lot, but still got way more than I could have ever hoped for.
“Realm of Ash and Blood” is almost like a re-birth for Solothus. Everything, and by this I mean everything, has been updated and improved. Sounds are HUGE, performances flawless, cover art phenomenal and yes, the main thing, the songs are perfected to boot, for lack of a better term. When “Father of Sickness” starts up, you pay attention to the new found professionalism in their approach, but it is not until the jaw-dropping melodies emerge around the half-way mark of the song when things really start to get serious.
Like Incantation playing their version of Paradise Lost’s “Icon“, Solothus grab you in their bear hug and never again let go. “The Watcher” introduces a live favourite to come with a somewhat faster pace and a neck breaking thunder to it. The middle parts of the album introduce the purest Death Doom tracks, namely “The Gallows’ Promise” and “Below Black Waters”. The latter part of the album is dedicated to mesmerising lead guitar work, that remind us why Katatonia’s “Brave Murder Day” was such a gem. When “Realm of Ash and Blood” is over, you are eager to push play again instantly. A rare treat, with Death Doom, let me assure you.
I’m not sure what Solothus have stopped or started taking, but they have managed to turn everything around for the better with “Realm of Ash and Blood”. And just in the right time in their careers too. On the verge of an all important album release for a new contract on a game changer of a label, they are about to make a huge difference this year. “Realm of Ash and Blood” is by far the best Death Metal record that has come out of the Finnish scene for years and years, and it is also the best Death Doom release you are bound to hear in the first quarter of the year 2020. Everything here has been done with style. The guitar leads sing and wail very much like they used to do on the albums of their countrymen Sentenced, Uplifting everything to a new level. Yet, they never rush into the brainless weedling of assorted egomaniacs anonymous (Hi, I’m Yngwie and I suck…). The Vocals are convincing, guttural growls from gory sewers of Death, but all coming out in a carefully arranged manner. Never overdoing it. To cut a long story short, everything in here is as it is supposed to be. With a secret ingredient.
There is a real magic to “Realm of Ash and Blood”. You do not hear too often the perfect marriage of sledge hammer Death Metal and the atmospheric qualities of doomy melancholy, but here you have it full on and side by side. This kind of songwriting is like a house of cards, very easy to turn into a pile of shit in a second, but Solothus never go for the easy options out and the final summary is pretty easy to belt out: If you like Death Doom, you will love the new Solothus. Simple as that.
All hail the new masters!
Rating – 5/5