I first stumbled across Sweden’s In Solitude much the same way I’ve managed to stumble upon a slew of new bands over the last handful of years: early Mercyful Fate references get thrown around and curiosity basically wins out. Trouble is, the M.F. rank is an exceedingly difficult row to reap because such a clear key component to the overall mood is conveyed through King’s insanely unique and intense vocal range. But I’ve come to realize that pointing a critical finger toward In Solitude‘s “decent, yet insufficient Mercyful Fate-isms” was a bullshit tactic. The true root behind my overall disinterest was, to put it plainly, indifference. As the fossilized adage goes: “God is in the details,” and the In Solitude of the past simply failed to thoroughly flesh out the details in order to fully set hook to mouth.
Quite a bit can happen over the course of two years, though. For one, album number three from the Swedes – Sister – exhibits a marked improvement in terms of overall song-writing. Things are relatively straightforward in their overall structure, but more attention is directed toward hooking through an infectious chorus, riff, or lead. The album’s center-point, “Pallid Hands,” stands particularly tall as one of the more contagious cuts of 2013, but every tune offered brings some sort of memorable catch to the table to help guarantee a healthy shelf-life.
We’re also exposed to a full range of tempos to help further spice the pot – faster strikes such as “Death Knows Where” and the rollicking “Horses in the Ground”; mid-paced gallopers like “Lavender” and the title track (the closest thing to the band’s previous material); and slower, moodier rumblers such as the contagious “A Buried Sun” and the record’s stretched closer, “Inmost Nigredo.”
What puts Sister over the top, however, is the fact that the band absolutely nails the new sound that now paints the edges. The overall stance still smacks of In Solitude, but brazen nods to elder Mercyful Fate are mostly dropped in favor of a different brand of dark atmosphere – one that emphasizes an enjoyable collision between The Cult‘s raw energy and The Mission UK‘s goth-rock slant. The latter is most noticeable in the sulking acoustic opener, “He Comes,” and the former jumps to the spotlight throughout the album’s more lively fare. The fundamental result of this newfound conjunction with the band’s traditional metal nucleus gives the blanketing temperament a fairly fresh perspective on one of today’s most glaring metal trends – hues of Ghost, except, you know, actually heavy fucking metal.
Hell, even the production is first-rate; it feels warm and oddly soft, but still gloomy, and it balances all the player’s respective wares perfectly. Also notably satisfying is the fact that this lush production does a great job of showcasing the heaps rumbling bass – and by God, I love it when a metal band’s bass player does more than just loom lifelessly like a hat rack behind four strings. Suffice to say, the producer’s role on Sister is pivotal, and the band would clearly benefit from keeping him in their camp for more work in the future.
Metal Blade has clearly done their homework in terms of pushing the Hell out of this record before street-date, and I’d be hard-pressed to come up with another release outside of Surgical Steel that’s gotten more positive promotion right from the chute. But I have to admit, this is one of those rare occasions where the hype actually seems worth it. The In Solitude of 2013 has crammed enough fresh, subtly dark tricks up their sleeve to make Sister one of the year’s more pleasant surprises.
The Devil is in the details.