We here at Last Rites are unabashedly in the business of metal, and boy does it pay well. We are, admittedly, “generally impressed by riffs,” so when you come to our site and we’re talking about a goth rock album, you might ask what in the world we’re doing. Sure, this isn’t going to bring in the big bucks that an act like Anal Vomit or Necrofucker would, but in our never-ending charitable nature, think of us as heavy metal philanthropists: we seek to expose you to great music, even if it’s not going to get us paid (or even laid). Perhaps that should tip you off about just how great, special and divine we here think this Soror Dolorosa album is.
Somewhere in the beautiful fields of Nephilim lies Soror Dolorosa, nestled in a serene pasture between fertile plots belonging to The Mission to the west and Love Like Blood to the east. To the north, a plot of land sprinkled with the influence of Mark Burgess’ vocal work (The Chameleons), while the south holds the remnants of Brian Eno’s more “active” ambient work. Together, these fields produce a rich gothic rock mixture with ambient undertones amid dark waves of grain.
A brief history is in order, as Soror Dolorosa is a band that has only gotten stronger throughout their career. Each release reveals a better understanding of the blending of styles that makes their 2017 release so effective. Their 2009 EP, Severance, had some harshness around the edges, a hollow production, and a lack of cohesion among the instrumentation, but underlying the shortcomings was the promise of a band that could (and would) absolutely deliver in the post-wave scene.
Their first LP, also released in 2009, Blind Scenes, took the band in a decidedly darker direction, allowing the bass and vocals to lead the way over staggered drum beats to push the gothic theme while dialing back the post wave. It was in 2013 with the release of No More Heroes that Soror Dolorosa finally crossed the plateau and entered into the elite of their oversaturated genre, however. The record seamlessly blended their dark sound with more rock-forward rhythms, and it better explored the balance of levity (assisted by a heavy load of chorus on the guitars) and gravity (led by an extraordinary vocal performance on par with Sister of Mercy’s Andrew Eldritch at times), which added a substantial emotional heft to the palette.
But still, none of the band’s prior works hold a candle to Apollo. At once emotionally maudlin, thought-provokingly depressing and downright danceable, Soror Dolorosa has produced an album of timeless goth rock that’s laced with post wave and dark wave influences, intermixed with ambient textures. Taking all their previous influences, and everything that was positive about their prior works, Soror Dolorosa has woven a basket solid enough to hold the pressures of the future of their genre.
There are jaw-dropping tracks like “Another Life” or “Everyway” that will cause the body to undulate to a soft rhythm set by a mournful bass. And, like so much great dark wave, it’s the bass that leads the way, gently plucking out ascending and descending patterns that balance each other, while creating intoxicating rhythms to ever-so-softly swirl your hips to. These tracks are saccharin in their emotions, yet hypnotic in their romanticism. Good goth and goth-tinged music will always have an underlying bass of romanticism in the dark and catastrophic, and Apollo is no different; it just delivers that romance in a buttoned-up package full of crescendos, balanced distortion, and truly enrapturing vocal deliveries.
There are ambient tracks. I’m talking ambient, meaning no vocals (well, not in the classic verse/chorus sense) and no distinct lead lines or bass patterns — merely tracks that link the different parts of this seventy-minute affair by creating quiet places in which to meditate upon things such as the meaning of life and death. There’s “Night is Our Hollow” that sets the scene with a dark, progressive and provocative crescendo; there’s “Yata” that changes the mood with a brighter, less contemplative and more confident, invigorating synth-centered groove; there’s “Long Way Home,” the album’s shortest track, which uses a mournful acoustic piano to tie together an upbeat track with one that features acoustic guitar; and not to be forgotten, there’s the “Epilogue” that perfectly closes out Apollo‘s romantic, emotional journey.
With the exception of “Epilogue,” the more ambient pieces usually foretell the tale of an upcoming great track. For example, “The End” follows “Yata” and provides another high-point for what is an already excellent record. Traipsing across landscapes flecked with minimalist guitars, a solid backbeat and energetic vocals, “The End” is a constant, gradual crescendo that ebbs and flows while tugging at the heart-strings and shoe-strings that could cause impromptu dancing. Another short track, “That Run,” provides a near new wave, pop take on their darker sound. Drum machines give the tireless bass rhythm a rest as a synthesizer hammers out a descending melody accompanied by a contradictory, yet complementary guitar line. The tracks is short, but wholly effective and captivating.
It’s no doubt that Apollo is the best, most complete, work to date for Soror Dolorosa. And, contrary to rational opinion, the fact that Apollo is more than an hour long, it’s a gift from the dark gods. So laugh, love, romance, die and consume soft red wines. Let Soror Dolorosa play you softly and groovily into the fall season.
It’s with complete pleasure and honor that we are able to debut the following track, “Everyway”: