Despite a moniker tailor-made for doom metal, the Virginia-based trio known as Solace of Requiem, in fact, plays death metal. The band’s third album, The Great Awakening was actually recorded in 2008, but the act, which had recently parted ways with Ruptured Silence Records, was, surprisingly, unable to generate any interest from other labels for the new album. So, after two years of lying fallow, the group made the decision to self-release this complex, brutal beast of an album, and the metal world is better for it.
Solace of Requiem leaps from riff to riff and shifts tempos in what, at first, seems like a haphazard manner, and the fact that the two main guitar tracks are often playing different parts adds to the overall sense of chaos. To further compound matters, the tracks on The Great Awakening are almost all shy of four minutes, so although Solace of Requiem throws down a serious beating, the band does not beat you over the head with same idea more than a couple times. Careful listening, however, will reveal that, although the band’s music is far removed from the typical verse-chorus-verse structure, the music does have structure and continuity of its own. The final minute of “Rivers,” for instance, is based around a simple musical phrase, but rather than repeat it verbatim, the band, through various tricks such as harmonization, modulation and call-and-response, mutates the phrase through each successive generation of the riff, in a sort of musical evolution. This kind of inventive compositional technique abounds on The Great Awakening, making it a varied and dynamic listening experience.
Despite the generally frantic pacing and onslaught of riffs, Solace of Requiem does a good job of giving each song its own identity via a signature riff or an unusual tone or technique; therefore every track is technically a stand-out. Two songs do, however, shine a little brighter than the others, namely, “Homage to Shiva” and “Scourge of Wills” “Homage to Shiva”, the album’s closing instrumental, melds a languid clean guitar passage to typical brutal death metal riffing in a seamless manner, despite the fact that the two parts appear to be played at different tempos. “Scourge of Wills” is both the album’s longest and slowest-paced track. “Scourge” begins with a slow, churning set of riffs in a style highly reminiscent of Arkansas death merchants Vore. The song’s middle section is filled with a more typical, faster-paced crunch and squeal, but for the last minute and a half, Solace of Requiem slowly winds down the tempo until, in a grand anti-climax, the track grinds to a complete halt.
Solace of Requiem is that rare breed of band whose prodigious instrumental skill is matched by its compositional prowess. How this group remains unsigned is nearly unfathomable to me. The Great Awakening is an album at the crossroads of progressive, brutal and technical death metal. It is a challenging listen of both majesty and savagery, and it is well worth your money.