Where Angels Dare To Tread: A Solitude Aeturnus Primer

A case can and should be made for Arlington, Texas doom vets Solitude Aeturnus being in the running for the most underrated classic metal band to ever come out of these United States.

True, an opening statement such as this might come across as a clickbait trap, but with over a decade of activity that produced six first-class albums that remain fairly difficult to come by in various physical formats, Solitude Aeturnus certainly checks a number of the requisite boxes to at least put them in the running. Hell, even doing a preliminary investigation to discover how the general public might elect to rank their discography results in mostly zilch, and we all know metal fans love spending a hugely unreasonable amount of time drowning the internet with ranked lists related to virtually every corner of our wonderfully consuming genre.

Then again, Solitude Aeturnus does indeed operate—or rather did, as it very sadly appears to be these days—under one of metal’s more…unheralded off-shoots: doom. And to challenge matters even further, they did so during a time when virtually every metal band was attempting to fathom any and all ways to push the thrash that had recently secured its foothold into even more extreme realms. Which, as it just so happens, is precisely where we find a perhaps surprising provenance for America’s answer to Candlemassive epic doom.

Solitude Aeturnus’ principal songwriter / guitarist / all around awesome fellow John Perez got his start as a musician in the Texas metal scene right alongside those fleeting years where thrash managed to flourish and then quickly become out of fashion due to its sudden (and quite strange) commercialization and because death metal managed to very quickly grow as a grotesque carbuncle beneath one of its obscured folds. For his part, Perez leapt into to foray as a member of Rotting Corpse, a collection of festering youths playing a brand of raw yet melodic thrash that served as a springboard for death metal. As a point of reference, think of a more delightfully undercooked version of fellow Dallas / Fort Worth skeletal racketeers Rigor Mortis:

Perez left life as a rotting corpse early, though, citing an aversion to the narrow pathway afforded by the original forms of thrash and death metal, opting instead to hazard a step into a largely uncharted style that found mutiny inside heavy metal’s large-scale rebellion by slowing things down measurably and holding the focus on melody. The result was a band called Solitude—an ideal collision between the slow and heavy gravity of Nemesis / Candlemass and the sort of hugely melodic and fantastical classic metal delivered via early Fates Warning.

Right off the bat, Solitude made a perhaps inauspicious splash amidst the Dallas / Fort Worth / Arlington metal scene; similar to the reaction Saint Vitus first received surrounded by the SST punk scene of LA in the mid-80s, Perez’s new venture found itself confronted with metal fans that mostly connected with the genre due to its aggressive and intense energy, so slow & melodic was largely met with indignation. However, per an interview with Perez much later in the game, the negative reaction from crowds actually delighted him, serving only to further fuel his drive to succeed as one of the few US doom bands intent on defying trends.

Mirror of Sorrow demo lineup

The years that followed dispensed the sort of obstacles countless new bands faced in the late 80s and continue to face today. Their first demo—the curiously titled And Justice for All…, which predated Metallica’s …And Justice for All by a full eight months—caught some attention, but it wasn’t until the lineup shifted to incorporate the likes of Edgar Rivera on second guitar, Lyle Steadham on drums (switching to bass for the debut), and the wailing vocals of one Robert Lowe that the momentum finally began to strengthen with a second round of demos. A small Illinois-based label called King Klassic Records caught wind of the band, but unfortunately so did a Delaware thrash act called Solitude that went through the trouble of sending Perez & Co. a cease and desist letter that forced the (far superior) Texas rendition to attach the “Aeturnus” banner many of us have come to know and love.

King Klassic was a fuckin’ bust, agreeing to release the Solitude Aeturnus debut full-length but running out of money before being able to bring it to fruition. At the least, the label was able to shop the record around until it caught the attention of Roadracer / Roadrunner Records—an ostensibly suitable fit, given Roadracer’s propensity for diversity that included everything from power (Crimson Glory) to thrash (Holy Terror) to classic metal (Mercyful Fate / King Diamond), plus a number of the fledgling bands exploring the quickly erupting death metal trend. Perhaps unexpected, however, was the label’s decision to unveil Solitude Aeturnus via the Roadrunner Breaking Barriers Vol. 5 promo CD that included a version of “Where Angels Dare to Tread” alongside Suffocation (“Infecting the Crypts”), Pestilence (“Land of Tears”), and Immolation (“Those Left Behind”). Imagine enjoying an impressive plate of nachos only to have the chef float over to the table and drop a fresh block of Crème caramel on top—appreciated…but maybe not the best approach.

Thanks to all the label shenanigans, Into the Depths of Sorrow took over a year to finally hit the shelves, at which point Solitude Aeturnus had already written enough music for record number two. Their time with Roadrunner / Roadracer would end there, however, following the release of Beyond the Crimson Horizon and shortly after the band’s first official tour alongside Paul Di’Anno’s Killers. Point of fact: Solitude Aeturnus killed it from the stage, and the fact that the band never really seemed to get a fair shot at larger tours in order to garner greater attention from more people only adds to the “most underrated” argument.

From there, changes to the sound began to emerge, some subtle and some not-so-subtle—largely because Perez was very reluctant to remain creatively stagnant, but also because production peculiarities always managed to lurk. As the years continued to pass, the band got heavier, the band got groovier and the band got darker, but the doom nucleus and epic vocals never wavered. Eventually, however, the time between recordings stretched, culminating with a full 8-year expanse between 1998’s acclaimed Adagio and what unfortunately appears to be their epilogue, 2006’s splendid Alone.

All things considered, the lamentable truth that Solitude Aeturnus never quite managed to “make it big”—or at least as big as what many consider to be their closest kinsman, Candlemass—is eclipsed by the realization that they managed to deliver six first-class records as an unwavering doom act amidst a climate that never really gave those who doomed their due consideration. But then, those who hear doom’s call and ultimately consent to its force are a fairly unique species, and those who go the extra mile to actually channel that energy into compelling recordings are even more extraordinary in that they do so with the understanding that they themselves will likely be doomed to obscurity.

Truthfully, as John Perez once clarified in an early interview, the goal of Solitude Aeturnus had nothing to do with fame or glory—it was the very virtuous intention of simply creating compelling heavy metal with the strength to withstand the test of time. And truly, the most tragic part of the story remains the unfortunate truth that the material continues to be difficult to get into our hands. Yes, thankfully you can listen to the full body of work through any streaming device, but these records deserve to be palpable gems in people’s hands.

Thankfully, the gift of creativity and art can never fully be fated to extinction, so long as there are those of us who refuse to let the artists be forgotten. And with that, let us now take a closer look at the full works of the mighty Solitude Aeturnus.

INTO THE DEPTHS OF SORROW (1991)

  • Released July 1991
  • Label: Roadracer Records
  • Recorded at Dallas Sound Lab, February 1990
  • Production: Solitude Aeturnus
  • Engineer: Tim Kimsey
  • Assistant engineer: Michael Vasquez
  • Remixed at Sound Logic Studios, Dallas, Texas, April 1990
  • Remix engineer: Danny “God of Sound” Brown
  • Artwork: Shawn Carson
  • John Perez – guitars; Robert Lowe – vocals, keyboards; Edgar Rivera – guitars; Lyle Steadham – bass, lyrics; John “Wolf” Covington – drums
  1. Dawn of Antiquity [1:03]
  2. Opaque Divinity [6:24]
  3. Transcending Sentinels [7:35]
  4. Dream of Immortality [7:52]
  5. Destiny Falls to Ruin [5:05]
  6. White Ship [6:10]
  7. Mirror of Sorrow [7:37]
  8. Where Angels Dare to Tread [5:57]

In February of 1990, Solitude Aeturnus stepped into Dallas Sound Lab and recorded their debut full-length, Into the Depths of Sorrow, and they did so in what basically amounted to one week. The sum total of that endeavor was $3000, including one remix at Sound Logic Studio that took place in April that same year. The excitement level for the band members must have been through the roof, which is what makes the July 1991 release date all the more remarkable. Imagine being a group of vigorous heavy metal youths with the understanding that you have something very unique to share with the world, you complete your end of the mission, using every ounce of your shared energy, and then you have to wait a year and a half for that work to finally see the light of day. This sort of scenario can and still does happen today for any number of reasons, but modern technology has certainly mitigated the pain by allowing bands to at least share some developments in order to build and maintain hype. Of course, that same whiz-bang modern technology can also lead to premature album leaks, which curls a turd into the punchbowl in its own terrifically unique way that the bands of yore could never have imagined.

As mentioned in the intro, all the lumps Solitude Aeturnus endured in order to get Into the Depths of Sorrow out of the hands of the fledgling King Klassic Records and into the arms of Roadracer was well worth it, as the whole of the album delivered a true knockout that painted a picture of epic, soaring heavy metal befitting of a band with many more years of experience and multiple releases under their belt. Sure, the production sounds rather raw (actually a good thing), and some of the execution is ever so slightly under-baked, particularly around the middle, but the moment the extremely suitable monk chant intro slips into “Opaque Divinity” and we hear Robert Lowe speak the words “The apostle awoke,” followed by a belting out of “INSIDE A DREEEEEAAAAM,” the stage was set for a release as unique for 1991 as Epicus Doomicus Metallicus was for 1986.

The riffs are here in spades, and Lowe of course does a remarkable job of exploding heads with his towering voice, but the unsung heroes of this disc are definitely the excellent leads dropped by Perez and Rivera, plus the wonderfully mythical lyrics penned largely by bassist Lyle Steadham:

The apostle awoke Inside a dream Revealing what shall come to be With strengthened sight Tears of stone fell from his eyes Paving paths that none should follow

Truth of the matter: Those obsessed with all things underground knew of “doom” as a bonafide off-shoot by the early 90s, but it certainly wasn’t the first or second choice for anyone who spent the lion-share of their disposable income exploring the endless parade of bands hopping on the death metal train. The doomsters were out there, though, and the scene didn’t really give us much to grab onto if you were one of the few who held the epic doom grandeur of the first four Candlemass releases as close to your heart as you did any of your other loved ones. With Into the Depths of Sorrow, Solitude Aeturnus delivered every shred of the soaring splendor of early Candlemass, woven together with a clear influence from all manner of other metallic realms, most notably the sophisticated, storyteller variety painted by records such as Night on Bröcken, The Spectre Within, and Awaken the Guardian.

Killing blows: The intensely doomy way the record opens; the manner in which “White Ship” proves doom needn’t always be interminably sloooow; and the cracking epilogue of “Where Angels Dare to Tread.” The crowned king of the record, however, lands with “Mirror of Sorrow,” one of the finest epic doom songs ever recorded.

BEYOND THE CRIMSON HORIZON (1992)

  • Released July 21, 1992
  • Label: Roadrunner / Roadracer Records
  • Recorded and mixed at Sound Logic Studios, Dallas, Texas
  • Production and engineering: Danny “God of Sound” Brown and Tim “Chopper” Grugle
  • Artwork: Shawn Carson
  • John Perez – guitars; Robert Lowe – vocals, keyboards; Edgar Rivera – guitars; Lyle Steadham – bass, lyrics; John “Wolf” Covington – drums
  1. Seeds of the Desolate [6:30]
  2. Black Castle [4:09]
  3. The Final Sin [5:41]
  4. It Came Upon One Night [6:58]
  5. The Hourglass [5:16]
  6. Breathe the Fading Sun [4:26]
  7. Plague of Procreation [6:28]
  8. Beyond… [4:01]

With the support of a legit label at their backs, Solitude Aeturnus was able to enter Sound Logic Studios in Dallas, Texas with more resources committed to their sophomore effort, and Beyond the Crimson Horizon was all the better for it. The increased clarity and punch hit right from the gate, as “Seeds of the Desolate” wasted precisely zero time driving home every single element Into the Depths of Sorrow initiated one year prior, but with…well, more of everything. Indeed, album number two felt like the most logical continuation the band could conjure, but along with the enhanced production came a much more confident delivery from vocalist Robert Lowe, which, when combined with the endless stacks of glassy lead guitar work and even more Steadham narrative sorcery, pushed the sum total of Beyond the Crimson Horizon far enough into the stratosphere that most doom aficionados not only count it as the band’s peak, but as one of the finest epic doom recordings every put to tape.

Again, Lowe’s increased confidence behind the mic is a significant godsend here, where he not only continues to wail with the sorrow of a hundred desolate heroes, but his voice displays a newfound grit and a shade of wrath whenever the mood and pace begin to intensify. Take the opening “The Final Sin,” for example, which spends the better part of its 5-plus minutes soaring with a majestic urgency before Lowe threatens in the closing seconds, “I speak to fragile forms in moving mass / to men with intent awry / to solid forms of earthen mind / whose burden equals mine!”—just hugely effective, both lyrically and in the way Lowe puts an ironclad period at the end of the song’s general sentiment.

It’s more than just the voice here, though. John “Wolf” Covington’s drum work is more varied and forceful throughout, the leads are more intricate and explosive, and more of the songs incorporate stretches of an accelerated pace to maximize the record’s swelling energy. “Plague of Procreation” often gets cited as the album centerpiece, but a case can just as easily be made for the reworking of “It Came Upon One Night” from the And Justice for All… demo (lyrics written by original vocalist, Kristoff Gabehart), thanks to Lowe’s inclusion of a very Vangelis-inspired keyboard intro, plus the way it twists and turns and manages to incorporate a perfectly triumphant gong. (Note: Gongs always make great metal even greater. More gongs in metal, please.)

Following the release of Beyond the Crimson Horizon, Solitude Aeturnus enjoyed their first official tour, no doubt giving Paul Di’Anno’s Killers a run for their money, as well as further vindicating the band as an epic doom force to be reckoned with. Unfortunately, the craven suits behind Roadracer / Roadrunner opted to cut ties with the band, proving that quality and creative nonconformity do not always win the day when you’re a young band struggling to get heard amidst a sea of boundless brutality. Luckily, a great deal of doom was still to come for the intrepid heroes, this time at the behest of Pavement Music.

THROUGH THE DARKEST HOUR (1994)

  • Released November 17, 1994
  • Label: Pavement Music
  • Recorded at Rhythm Studios, Bidford-on-Avon, Warwickshire, England, May 1994
  • Produced by Solitude Aeturnus and Paul “Gov’nor” Johnston
  • Engineered by Paul “Gov’nor” Johnston
  • Mastered at Monsterdisc, Chicago, Illinois
  • Artwork: Leilah Wendell
  • John Perez – guitars; Robert Lowe – vocals; Edgar Rivera – guitars; Lyle Steadham – bass; John “Wolf” Covington – drums
  1. Falling [4:07]
  2. Haunting the Obscure [5:32]
  3. The 8th Day: Mourning [6:07]
  4. The 9th Day: Awakening [5:03]
  5. Pain [7:06]
  6. Pawns of Anger [6:36]
  7. Eternal (Dreams Part II) [7:51]
  8. Perfect Insanity [6:15]
  9. Shattered My Spirit [8:27]

Changes were afoot for album number three and the band’s debut with Pavement Music. Through the Darkest Hour was recorded at Rhythm Studios in England, under the watchful eye of a producer who was additionally responsible for massively weighty records such as Benediction’s Grand Leveller and Transcend the Rubicon, plus Cathedral’s Soul Sacrifice EP and the eponymous introduction from Electric Wizard. Accordingly, the new direction for Solitude Aeturnus focused on a more straightforward approach that favored riffs—a near endless supply of tractor-heavy riffs. So, yes, largely mitigated in ‘94 were the cordial, solemn nods to Fates Warning and that band’s immersive style of melodic storytelling, including a rather unfortunate reduction in leads, all of which paved the way for a more severe SA face that dropped leaden grooves reminiscent of bands such as Crowbar (also on Pavement at the time) and maximized via Bolt Thrower with The IVth Crusade and …for Victory. Even more unexpected, however, was the touch of experimentation in some of the atmospheric moody stretches of Through the Darkest Hour that launched a peculiar connection to the sort of gloomy grunge popularized in ’94 by bands like Soundgarden and Alice In Chains.

Wait, what? Bolt Thrower riffs colliding with grunge? Smoke another banana peel, pal.

No, seriously… It’s all folded into the corners of Through the Darkest Hour. The Bolt Thrower can be heard in those unctuous, almost lyrical Gavin Ward / Barry Thomson riffs:

And the Soundgarden / Alice In Chains whispers make their initial presence known in the dark folds of a song like “The 8th Day: Mourning,” especially with regard to the clean guitar work and Lowe’s despondent delivery:

Of course the crux of Through the Darkest Hour still retains a comprehensive mood and clout that screams Solitude Aeturnus, so a full 180-degree spin this certainly is not. Lowe’s vocals are still melodic and majestic enough to recall the days of greater pomp and splendor—the way he howls “haunting the SOLLLLLAAAACE” throughout “Haunting the Obscure,” for example. And the record still manages to recall the more melodic days whenever quick leads are given just a little more room to fly—again, “Haunting the Obscure,” shortly after the 3-minute mark. Or when some stretch of mystical mellowness draws the listener’s attention to dark, woodsy play—the second half of the otherwise crunchy and surprisingly aggressive “Pain.”

So, yes, Through the Darkest Hour is widely and wisely considered to be Solitude Aeturnus at their heaviest, but it’s also special because it demonstrated that Perez and crew were not at all afraid to experiment and progress. Another case in point: a song like “The 9th Day: Awakening,” which opens with a Bolt Thrower-styled riff that nearly grinds with its heaviness, but then a decidedly Middle Eastern atmosphere suddenly appears shortly after the 2-minute mark that includes a sitar solo from Shaun Hyder of Saddar Bazaar.

Really, the only song that still manages to feel slightly out of place is “Perfect Insanity,” but even that song’s curious aggressiveness welded to a Superunknown spirit at least sets up the listener for even stranger things to come in 1996…

DOWNFALL (1996)

  • Released July 29, 1996
  • Label: Pavement Music
  • Recorded at Regal Studios, Dallas, Texas, 1995-1996
  • Produced and engineered by Dave Osbourn
  • Artwork: Breck Outland
  • John Perez – guitars; Robert Lowe – vocals; Edgar Rivera – guitars; Lyle Steadham – bass; John “Wolf” Covington – drums
  1. Phantoms [5:58]
  2. Only This (and Nothing More) [5:25]
  3. Midnight Dreams [6:06]
  4. Together and Wither [5:37]
  5. Elysium [3:08]
  6. Deathwish (Christian Death cover) [2:15]
  7. These Are the Nameless [5:24]
  8. Chapel of Burning [4:25]
  9. Concern [6:16]

Find yourself amidst a smattering of Solitude Aeturnus fans and guide the discussion to album rankings, 9 out of 10 individuals will place Downfall at the bottom of their list. News flash: Full-length number four from the TX doom champs is definitely their strangest offering, both musically and certainly with regard to the now infamous production. In truth, though, outside of the wildly different production, these songs largely hit the target dead center, boasting some of Solitude Aeturnus’ most interesting leads, catchiest choruses, and what should be considered one of the finest closers they’ve ever penned.

But yeah…that production is very different, especially compared to what was offered two years prior with the ludicrously hefty Through the Darkest Hour. The band themselves were none too pleased with the way Downfall sounded, and the resulting discontent eventually culminated with longtime bassist / lyricist Lyle Steadham hanging up his doom hat for good in favor of pursuing punk rock pastures. What’s interesting, however, is that the production actually does manage to settle in as the record progresses. Not enough to call it good, per se, but it’s at least interesting in more than a few ways, and it’s easier to stomach in hindsight because it’s the only Solitude Aeturnus record that sounds this way. The bass in particular is very present, VERY heavy, and very upfront, and Wolf’s drumming has a terrifically snappy “live from the stage” impression that ends up giving the record a unique and wild energy. However, the riffing suffers here, and the comprehensive atmosphere is cavernous yet strangely…airless, so things have a tendency to feel a bit claustrophobic. Tack what could easily be considered the band’s most disposable track—the woozy and ranting “Elysium”—followed immediately by an abrupt cover of a Christian Death tune and you’ve got a record that, at the time, seemed to fall considerably short of their normally very high mark.

There are some true bangers here, though, particularly in the front half. And the record certainly does not shy away from the bluesier rock angle hinted at with “The 8th Day: Mourning” from the previous release. Fact of the matter, Perez and crew managed to find truly compelling ways to fold the bluesier doom and rock elements into their own design, and if Downfall could be hailed for any one thing it would be the fact that inventive solos found their way back into the spotlight. Plus, as mentioned, the closing “Concern” is a doom epilogue for the ages—alluring, warm and intensely emotional, and packed with the sort of soaring leads that caused us to fall in love with the band thirty years ago.

ADAGIO (1998)

  • Released August 3, 1998
  • Label: Massacre Records (Europe) / Olympic Records (USA)
  • Recorded at Rhythm Studios, Bidford-on-Avon, Warwickshire, England, April 1998
  • Produced by Solitude Aeturnus and Paul “Gov’nor” Johnston
  • Engineered by Paul “Gov’nor” Johnston
  • Mastered by Alexander Krull at Mastersound, Steinheim, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany
  • Artwork: Travis Smith
  • John Perez – guitars; Robert Lowe – vocals; Edgar Rivera – guitars; Steve Moseley – bass; John “Wolf” Covington – drums
  1. My Endtime [0:48]
  2. Days of Prayer [6:10]
  3. Believe [5:51]
  4. Never [2:53]
  5. Idis [5:40]
  6. Personal God (Robert Lowe: guitar / bass) [5:01]
  7. Mental Pictures [4:57]
  8. Insanity’s Circles [6:05]
  9. The Fall (John Perez: vocals) [2:28]
  10. Lament [5:42]
  11. Empty Faith (Robert Lowe: guitar / bass) [3:58]
  12. Spiral Descent [7:08]
  13. Heaven and Hell (Black Sabbath cover) [6:13]

There are really only two things a band can do following a setback release: end it outright and spend your newly acquired free time building a bunch of crap in your garage, or regroup and rethink how you might soldier forward into the future. Thankfully, Solitude Aeturnus chose the latter (as opposed to perhaps building rickety ladders), and with a newfound energy and the recently acquired services of Steve Moseley (Concept of God) to replace Lyle Steadham on bass, they signed a deal with Massacre Records out of Germany and headed to England to once again enlist the services of Paul “Guv’nor” Johnston to piece together album number five, Adagio.

The alterations definitely worked to the band’s advantage. England’s gloomy climate brought a more grim atmosphere into the picture again, which, when coupled with Johnston’s notably superior and heavier production, gives the whole of Adagio a more classic doom feel that offers an ideal combination of groove and misery—like Cathedral without the carnival element. Just a hint of grunge rock remains in the corners when Lowe’s delivery turns smoother and becomes layered amidst mellower measures, but it feels more incidental this time around, which is favorable. Also a benefit is the increased attention afforded to Middle Eastern elements, something the band has hinted at their entire career, but here it feels even more significant and becomes integrated more seamlessly—“Believe,” for example, and the way it twists from the gate with a heavy swagger intermittently punctuated by an indignant Lowe admonishing, “Pray to your hands for salvation / Bend your cross to fit your ways!”

For better or for worse, depending on which face of the band one prefers, the overall approach to Adagio’s songwriting remains fairly stripped down. Most of the songs hover around 5 minutes, and they generally stick to a groove that might break pace around the midpoint for a moment or two before eventually cycling back to however the song launched—a simple yet effective way to get the songs stuck in the brain. There are also a number tracks that emphasize atmosphere and a sort of faraway dreamy state fitting of the album’s cover art—the fourth track “Never,” for instance, which is wonderfully doomy and almost liquid, plus the two tracks featuring Lowe on guitar / bass (“Personal God” and “Empty Faith”) and Perez’s nod to Petrus Steele with the fully acoustic “The Fall.”

Adagio clocks in at over an hour, and with more than a handful of atmospheric interlude tracks, some of which are fairly long, one might venture a guess that it overstays its welcome. Not the case here, thanks to the strength of late-hitting bangers such as “Lament” (love the blazing rocker solo here), the closing rendering of “Heaven and Hell” (is there a more fitting band for a Dio-era Sabbath cover), and especially by virtue of the crowning “Spiral Descent,” which delivers an ideal melding of the full wealth of Adagio’s strengths.

ALONE (2006)

  • Released November 10, 2006
  • Label: Massacre Records
  • Recorded at Nomad Studios, Carrollton, Texas, June 2006–August 2006
  • Produced by Solitude Aeturnus
  • Engineered by Sterling Winfield and J.T. Longoria
  • Mixed by J.T. Longoria
  • Assistant engineer: Greg Adams
  • Mastered by Gary Long at Nomad Studios, Carrollton, Texas
  • Artwork: Travis Smith
  • John Perez – guitars; Robert Lowe – vocals, keyboards; Steve Moseley – guitars; James Martin – bass; Steve Nichols – drums
  1. Scent of Death [9:40]
  2. Waiting for the Light [4:39]
  3. Blessed Be the Dead [5:01]
  4. Sightless [4:22]
  5. Upon Within [7:54]
  6. Burning [8:40]
  7. Is There [7:59]
  8. Tomorrow’s Dead [6:26]
  9. Essence of Black [5:35]
  10. Embrace / Lucid Destitution (bonus track) [10:10]

Well-executed doom can deliver an awesomely powerful experience, and doom itself is of course a crucial part of the full metal spectrum, but it sure as fuck don’t pay the bills. True, such a statement could apply to any of metal’s branches, but it’s especially true of our ugliest but snuggliest duckling. The good news is this: If you’re a doom band that’s managed to endure a great many years, it likely means you remain in the game because some fragment of your soul is fortunate enough to tap directly into “The Well of Souls,” so it’s almost as if you have no choice but to doom, and you must therefore doom whenever doom doth call. The bad news is this: You never really know when doom will come a-knockin’, and sometimes the perpetual racket of life & times gets in the way of hearing the siren’s call.

In the case of Solitude Aeturnus, a prolonged 8-year stretch gaped like a canyon between Adagio and Alone, and all that downtime delivered all manner of unique hardships and challenges that ultimately resulted in a substantially new face for the band. Longtime bassist / lyricist Lyle Steadham had already departed, but also fallen (but not at all forgotten) were deep-rooted members Edgar Rivera and John “Wolf” Covington, supplanted here by a sizable lineup shift that moved Steve Moseley from bass over to guitar, and introduced James Martin (also from Concept of God) on bass and Steve Nichols on drums. The nucleus comprised of John Perez and Robert Lowe remained intact, though, and if the resulting sixth and final Solitude Aeturnus full-length did any one thing for those of us left listening, it demonstrated that there was still one last notably loud and doomy statement to be made by the revered entity. And as long as we’re talking swan songs, all too often the final statement from a band comes…a little too late. Fans smile and nod and remain thankful just to get another decent piece of the pie, with hopes that the work will allow the band in question to remain just alive enough to keep touring. Not the case for Alone.

First of all, the band had no idea this record would be their last. But with other projects underway—Perez with his psychedelic outlet, the still pumping Liquid Sound Company, and Lowe with his new (and transient) tenure with Candlemass—plus family and job commitments becoming increasingly significant, the writing was definitely on the wall by 2006. But there is nothing at all simply “decent” about Alone, as the record is nothing short of amazing because it once again finds a way to tap the very same well of doom the band first discovered back in the early 90s. In other words, Solitude Aeturnus sorta accidentally went out in the most significant way imaginable.

What Alone does remarkably well is offer up an ideal amalgamation of every face of Solitude Aeturnus, and it does so with a beautifully clear and powerful production they’ve very much deserved since day one. The balance here is just flawless; you can actually hear the bass, the drums are punchy, Lowe’s voice floats right into the room, and the melody throughout is bright and explosive. The front half of the record emphasizes the Middle Eastern energy they’ve tapped into time and again, and with the animated production and a push for a more nimble pace, songs such as the fantastic “Waiting for the Light” and “Sightless” sound ever so close to the spirit of modern Mercyful Fate and a record like Time.

With the second half, the slower and more dismal face of the band shines, stretching the minutes but remaining pleasantly adventurous. “Is There” is dark and crunchy and intensely heavy, and it throws down some of the hardest soloing on the record, while “Tomorrow’s Dead” hits the familiar epic heights with a notably catchy and lifting chorus. And as great as the closing “Essence of Black” is—with its thorough desolation that’s offset by the warmth of some wonderful leads—it is vital to stress the importance of tracking down the digipak CD or vinyl version in order to secure the 10-minute bonus track, “Lucid Destitution / Embrace,” as it throws down an even more ironclad period on the final Solitude Aeturnus sentence.

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I’m tempted to declare time was cut short for Solitude Aeturnus, and that I still hold a semblance of hope for one more go-round at some point in the future. But how often do we get a band delivering six high-quality full-lengths adventurous enough from one release to the next that everything manages to sound pretty damned different when you commit to yet another discography binge? Pretty rare. Consequently, Solitude Aeturnus ended up giving us exactly what John Perez and crew first set out to accomplish now 30+ years ago: top-shelf melodic heavy metal unique enough to stand the test of time. How lucky we are to be doomed by such a great band.

Posted by Captain

Last Rites Co-Owner; Senior Editor; Handsome & Interesting Man; Just get evil all the time.

  1. Hugely interesting perspective on the history of this band. Actually i never knew they went back so far, to 1990. The metal atmosphere in the late 80s when they were starting was definitely not favoring doom metal. I remember that itme, it was all about thrash (well, and Black Sabbath and Judas Priest). I love the album Alone, but that’s the only one I was familiar with. Can’t believe I never heard their earlier albums. The songs you embedded from the earlier albums were awesome. “Dreams Part II” is my favorite song of today for sure.

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    1. For me it is just the opposite angle, I adore the first two albums and then lost track in the mid nineties, will be interesting to check out Alone.

      Reply

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