Solstice - Death's Crown is Victory (2014)
Into The Void Records (Invictus Productions)
Review by Trevor Proctor
Death’s Crown is Victory is the first release from Solstice in thirteen years; founding member Rich Walker put all things Solstice on hold in 2002, and although he began putting the band back together in 2005 it would be 2011 before Solstice would return to rehearsing, gigging and touring. Worthy of note is the fact the band’s first gig with their new line-up was supporting Primordial’s 20th anniversary show in Dublin’s Academy on 24th September 2011, a massively successful gig for all bands involved.
Solstice garnered much praise from metal’s underground when Candlelight Records released their debut album “Lamentations” in 1994 – at this stage the metal scene was still very much enamoured with the second wave of Black Metal, one of the factors that made Solstice standout from their peers was their clean vocal style, as it turned out they were a band who would be accepted by metal and doom fans alike. The Halycon EP was released in 2006 and at this stage Solstice was proving to be much of a cult act with a rapidly growing fan base, they then released the album “New Dark Age” via Misanthropy Records in 1998 but by 2002 a series of events led to Walker temporarily disbanding the group.
Death’s Crown is Victory was recorded at GN studios in Huddersfield by Kerry Hughes and mixed and mastered by Rich Whittaker whose mixing and recording work has previously been with The Who, Black Sabbath and The Clash. With this EP Solstice wanted to take steps toward a more organic live style sound, whilst creating their usual blend of epic, spirit rousing heavy metal. Death’s Crown is Victory was released on the “Into the Void Records” label on 10th February - located in Temple Bar; Dublin Into the Void Records is Ireland’s leading metal store and is closely linked to the extremely prolific and successful Invictus Productions label. Solstice recently played in Dublin to mark the third anniversary of Into the Void Records.
Death’s Crown is Victory has four tracks, spanning just over twenty six minutes between them; the first and final tracks are shorter, instrumentals – in my opinion forming a perfect intro and outro to the EP. Starter Fortress England begins with a bird’s caw, with wind and gentle rain also helping to conjure images of battlefields and bravery, leading us into some clean guitar work and basic yet spirited drumming that brings us to the first of two epic tracks that surpass over nine minutes each. I Am the Hunter is a fantastic spirit rousing track that Solstice have been playing live since 2011 – Paul Thomas Kearn’s vocals are outstanding throughout and the dual guitar work is exemplary, with the solos proving to be a definite highlight but for me the true genius is the track’s breakdown 5 ½ minutes in – it’s metal at its finest, Kearn’s vocal and the accompanying guitar solo demand your attention and if this track doesn’t rouse your spirit or soul you’re devoid of both.
Death’s crown is Victory again shows Kearn’s vocal ability to be much greater than many who grace the metal world today, I can’t fault his singing in any way nor would I want to. Close to ten minutes this track also showcases the musical ability of all involved in the significantly talented group that is Solstice, outstanding guitar solos seem to come every easy to this band and the music their combined talents creates is peerless. Throughout the EP Solstice fail to put a foot wrong, to me this is a lesson in metal for many acts to try and emulate - powerful, epic, emotional and highly proficient - with this EP Solstice have set a very high standard.
The great news is the band is currently working on their next release, entitled “To Sol A Thane” it will again feature the proven and successful recording partnership of Hughes and Whittaker which featured on this EP; I wait with bated breath, and suggest you do too.
1. Fortress England.
2. I Am the Hunter.
3. Death’s Crown is Victory.
4. Aequinnoctium II.
Death's Crown is Victory is available now from Into The Void Records (Invictus Productions)