originally written by Jim Brandon
Once in a while when things get busy behind the scenes here, an album or three isn’t snatched up to review right away. After noticing nobody had picked Bliss Of Solitude for a little while, the latest and most prolific release from long-running Swedish doom masters Isole, and having never heard a single note of music by the band previously, I figured what the hell? Why not? I almost feel like the kid on the playground who accidentally found the winning prize during a scavenger hunt when all the other kids were looking in totally different areas. Their recent signing to Napalm Records finally gives this longtime veteran act some much-deserved exposure, with the metal realm that much better off for it, and those of us who enjoy healthy amounts of majestic classic/current doom in our metal diets will gorge ourselves sick with this masterpiece.
Bliss… is propelled by the multi-textured vocals of guitarist Daniel Bryntse, lead guitarist Crister Olsson, and bassist Henrik Lindenmo, with voices that have an ethereal sort of wispy, floating quality to them. The only serious growling is shown during brief moments of opening salvo “By Blood” and the huge eleven minute closer “Shadowstone”, as the songs in-between are mostly smoothly vocalized in breathy, Akerfeldt-esque cleans. This lack of predictably roaring vocals all the time creates a very interesting dynamic between the softer and heavier parts of the songs, but the assembly isn’t so varied that it feels as if you’re going through hills and valleys. It’s a very stable album, and the way the songs remain captivating in lieu of extremity is fresh and unique.
Musically, Isole are more in tuned with Candlemass, Opeth and Daylight Dies than, say, Abandon or Thee Plague Of Gentlemen. The heaviness is derived more from the riffs and arrangements themselves rather than the tuning of the guitars, or the weight of the vocal growls. Not much dust gathers on these guys, because this album moves almost constantly with chugging chords, airy atmospherics, and strong individual ideas that do well to separate the tracks from each other while still retaining the integrity of the seamless flow. It’s hard to come up with a highlight since there really is absolutely no low point I can determine, as if Isole were purely focused on making each moment of this disc into a highlight with no weak tracks, and no filler.
Some writers have expressed feeling a great deal of sadness coming off this album, but I don’t hear anything miserable going on here at all. In fact, if doom could be called spectacular, this would be it in my estimation. While the vocals don’t travel a very expansive or operatic note span, the melodies are vibrant and mighty with rich, robust tones and confident chanting harmonies, blending so fluidly with the chugging riffs as a more melodic guitar often floats above everything. All the while drummer Jonas Lindstrom contributes a colorful, soulful backbone with his momentous drumming expertise, and what makes tracks like “From A Clouded Sky” so effectively massive is when the graceful leads come into play, as the solos likewise lift the percussion into similarly energetic patterns. It’s as if all four players are working from the same mind, and the results are incredible.
Bliss Of Solitude is an apt title, for sitting alone with this album playing loudly either during rain or shine can bring about feelings of sheer rapture. I’ve struggled with scoring this album for far too long, as even at my most nitpicky I can’t find a whole lot of bad things to say about Isole’s latest. Each and every one of these seven tracks is a total standout, from “Imprisoned In Sorrow”, to “Aska”, to the title track, and “Dying”, nothing is taken for granted. I was floored, and give this record my absolute highest possible recommendation along with a guaranteed spot on my year-end best list. A simply brilliant, unexpected gift.