Tuesday, 13 September 2011

In Times Of Solitude by doom veterans Solitude Aeturnus, is not long released. It features a collection of rare tracks, showing off early demo material, and unreleased studio recordings, that more importantly, bridge mysterious gaps in their discography. One question which penetrates the hype surrounding the album, why now? The Justice For All cassette has been bandied about for a decade (well, twelve years in fact) that includes most of the material on this new compilation, yet, bang in the middle of 2011, we’ve finally been granted permission to open our ears to such rare treasure, in all its re-mastered glory.

Speaking with Solitude Aeturnus guitarist and main songwriter, John Perez, he echoes our impatience, “I’ve actually wanted to release this collection of older material for quite some time now, in fact several years. I just felt that we needed to pay respect to the early days of the band, and I know a ton of die-hard SA fans that would like to have a glimpse into the beginnings of the band. I emphasise, this is not for the casual fan.”

Our question still remained somewhat unanswered, why now? Perez gave us no giveaways, suggested no marketing upside, no particular timing to coincide with a different release. He remained valiant that the album was to be released simply because, right now, it feels right.

Their most recent and consequent sixth album “Alone” garnered much success. It sent ripples throughout the doom community, gathering critical acclaim, heralded as ‘the strongest release since their debut’. So, just where on earth have Solitude Aeturnus been? “Playing live shows mostly. We’ve done some overseas festivals and a few over here as well [USA]. In the meantime I’ve slowly been writing songs for another release. It just takes forever these days, simply because we don’t have as much time to devote to the band as we’d like to. We all live far apart, and we all work our day jobs, as well as having our own lives to lead”.

Looking back throughout the early eras of rock and metal, Solitude Aeturnus’ writing process back in the day must have been as complex as today’s technical metal bands, who do their best to come up with something innovative through every string they pluck. Like all of their previous work, In Times Of Solitude swims in much more diverse waters than simply being an all-out doom or sludge affair. It demonstrates, that in the late 80s, putting together a doom release was incredibly forward thinking, and by no fluke was it necessary to incorporate progressive elements into the genre. Solitude Aeturnus’ progress would eventually serve as a template, for any hopeful band to write from.

John, when you first started writing for SA, was the kind of complexity which is in your song writing, something that you were consciously aware of? "The answer is both yes and no. I was very aware of writing more complex song structures, and I felt that we needed to explore this to some degree, although at the same time I didn’t want and still don’t want to get carried away with the ‘progressive’ aspect of metal. It has to be melodic and catchy enough for anyone to get into, but it also has to be forward thinking and more involved, keeping it interesting for the musicians. Hah, progressive to my mind, really means to challenge the norm and do things different than what would normally be done. We stay outside of trends to keep it genuine - and yeah, we’re not afraid to do things differently."

Incredibly, Solitude Aeturnus have been juggling in the same style throughout such a sustained period of time. Understanding that they’d alienate a huge amount of their following, by going on another direction – yet at the same time acknowledging that Solitude Aeturnus are well known to make music for themselves – I asked how they had been able to stay so focused on doom for such a long time. “By only releasing 6 albums in our entire existence! Haha! Actually it’s somewhat true. If we would have released twelve albums already, I think the quality would suffer. Our sound is diverse but at the same time familiar. We try to always keep the listener in mind and since we’re listeners as well, then we try to keep it interesting for ourselves as much as possible. Our style is actually very diverse and although doom is a foundation, it’s not the complete picture. We pay attention to song writing detail and we don’t let anything we feel is mediocre, slip by us. I’d rather do fewer albums with greater quality in each, rather than twice as many lacking in quality.”

We’ve heard nothing about a new release, and history tells us that Solitude Aeturnus take as long as it takes to put a release together, not least because of Perez’s own view on quality control. Added to that, the follow up to “Alone” carries a huge weight.

Any future plans? “Of course, and I do apologise to our fans for not working faster, but again, we’d rather release quality than quantity - I’m not a fan of releasing a mediocre product, with my name on it. We are working on new material now, and I have about 5 songs nearly done. They range from heavy metal that is kind of Iron Maiden or Fates inspired, to extreme gloomy doom. My goal is to get us into a studio by the start of next year, so I’m working hard now to get us together and finish the writing and rehearsal process. Importantly, no live gigs will be planned until we can record a new album.”


My review of In Times Of Solitude

Full interview available in Powerplay issue #135

Posted by Posted by Andy at 11:14 am
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It smacks at a surprise, just how far doom has progressed over the past two decades. The style of the genre inside of the eighties and nineties wasn’t much slower in tempo than its post-Sabbath rowdies, it was simply much more progressive throughout the era - doom back then wasn’t lauded for its lack of energy, but how everything put together was done with a greater intelligence, than something fronted with speedy guitar heroes and daft haircuts.

How does the critic judge what was back then genius, to now be old, shrivelled and stale? Is it churlish to assume that Solitude Aeternus have never bothered to release the rare Justice For All cassette of '88, until now, because it wasn’t that great? Since their strong reputation follows in 2011, does it nervously have a leg to stand on? DVD extras can be charming, but there’s good reason why they never made the final cut, and after all, this is a remastered demo – like a movie director showing us the final version of his or her film stuck in the pre-production stage.

Accentuating the past for oldies is In Times Of Solitude’s only triumph, as offering newcomers nothing fresh or radical other than different arrangements of a brand of metal that’s been laid to rest - for good reason – is an obvious disappointment. This late eighties demo has very little gold tucked away; much more of a history lesson than something of hidden treasure.

6/10 Powerplay issue #135

Posted by Posted by Andy at 11:01 am
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Looking for unorthodox rhythms, as well as complex song structures? Deep lyrical undertones, saturated in a near scientific production? Why not have it all? Fully realised “Apple For Teacher” should be all of these things, but in reality it’s neither. A folk-indie-rock experiment, it toes the line on something as soft and airy as Wye Oak, to the rigor of National Sunday Law – certainly, it’s an album spanning every genre you can say in thirty seconds. This then tells you it’s the kind of album that’s very easy to chortle at and discard pretentious, without giving a thought to its great intentions. Menendez are trying to make something zealously expressive and honest inside of an experimental production. Certainly no easy feat, but one which isn’t done very well.

It’ll test your patience, be demanding and pretend a little far too much, “Apple For Teacher” may prove unrewarding for many, but it’s difficult not to feel enchanted by its artistic nuances, even when the whole thing has been put together in a clumsy, sheepish way.

6/10 Powerplay issue #135

Posted by Posted by Andy at 10:56 am
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Echoes of the Fallen lifts and cuts around those huge releases, which have elevated Arch Enemy, Children of Bodom and Dying Fetus to dizzying heights in the metal world. They then have used various parts of their heroes graft, to put together an album resembling something of a slick and accomplished package. You’d think it’s simply difficult to not hate an act, which looks at their pioneers work, and snobbishly concludes ‘put this beside one another, we can do all of you much better’. No inspiration to colour the sound with, no punchy album concept - yet, it’s an incredibly polished piece of work, one that cynically resides little heart, but tons of knowledge and effort.

Echoes of the Fallen isn’t a ground breaking exercise in melodic metal, but it certainly raises more than a few eyebrows with its water-tight technical performances, and solid structure.

7/10 Powerplay issue #135

Posted by Posted by Andy at 10:46 am
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