REVIEW: Solace - "13"

By Chris Eissing

Chain Border

Fervently plucking the many fruits that have sprung from the ever-reaching arms of the Black Sabbath family tree, Solace is both a standout of early-90s grunge and a throwback to dark pre-hair metal. Their sound is so Seattle it could only have come from South Jersey, but the thick resemblance to the family ancestry would still make a proud mama and poppa out of Ozzy and Black Sabbath (hey, grunge was the music of the broken home). 13 lives to its cover that comes off as half Hieronymus Bosch, half Mad fold-in.

Loving Sickness/Burning Fuel kicks off the album with all the compliments of Solace's legacy: thick as a revving motorbike guitar riffs doubling a walking bass pulled together with syncopated and off-time drum lines. It pulls back and slams this into 4th gear driving a hard rock beat, vocals that border on hardcore and guitar overlays that punch the gut like the baritone industry of a Harley rev. Throwing in fat distorted harmonica and rounding out with a return to the old. Indolence musically sheds the specter of Sabbath musically, but not vocally. Until the chorus, when it is all punch and post modern lyricism. A standout on the album for punch, tempo and crescendo.

The guitar work on King Alcohol is very reminiscent of Alice in Chains, weaving a dark mood through tonalities that run up and down the loom. This is one of the freshest songs vocally on the mix. In it the singer Jason seems at his most relaxed and in his element and range. It is also the song that is possibly the least resembling Sabbath or Ozzy in sound or style. Once Around the Sun is the perfect song to follow up King Alcohol. The vocals range from forgivably Ozzy, to angst-ridden mantras of the new. These are wonderfully wrapped with a hypnotic repeating riff similar to Jane's Addiction, interspliced with solos as clean as any off Pearl Jam's Ten. Its drops in tempo pulled along by the melody that shifts the guitars from a guttural snarl to a clean edge precisely when needed.

Common Gauge is textbook hard rock that shakes the Solace's family tree. Riff-driven with a straight-up beat and solos that could have fit on any one of a number of band's songs. The vocals are the cleanest on this, receiving the least effects treatment. In the Ocean takes the harder angst-driven vocals only tasted in other songs and lets them take the forefront. It has a nice lull that doesn't disappoint by slamming back into the song's meat. Very similar to Jane's Addiction in composition trading Perry Ferrel's falsetto for the grinding vocal sounds of a near-scream. The following song, Forever My Queen, seems almost out of place as Solace goes back to the fat sounds of their earliest influences.

Kudos to the engineer, along with the band, for the mastering of Try. The effecting of the sounds that make this up add special element to this track. This is where Solace's influence's meld together to create a unique sound. Not losing the makeup of their forbearer's trademark elements while letting their talents shine through and paint with a wide brush. Sled Heavy and Rice Burner have a great sound and drive with fantastically urgent guitar riffs, similar to contemporary Godsmack. These are tunes Solace should regard as trademarks of their sound. The album rounds out with With Time which growls as heavy as any in the genre with guitars and vocals to match. It is thick and powerful. Hold onto your woofers and take the Hummels off the shelf. The hidden track is a little diddy that dances close to the edge of hardcore, but is more similar to Rob Zombie.

Solace is an excellent melding of old and new. They are heavily influenced by Ozzy and Sabbath and it shows through in nearly all of their songs. Solace was once the same Godspeed that toured with Dio and Sabbath's 90's incarnation, so its sound was not influenced indirectly, but on the same stage. Their sound sometimes comes off as a mix of grunge contemporaries with Live anteing up with the percussion, Alice in Chains and Jane's Addiction lending the guitar sounds, Pearl Jam providing the solos with Ozzy's shadow at times elbowing out experimentation. But who cares. This is one of the slickest hard offerings I've gotten in a long time. Solace lives up to their resume. Drop the headphones. This one needs to be played on a stereo…loud. With its smatterings of old and new, don't be shy to skip to the tracks you like. It does run the gamut of influences in its sound and style, from legacy to contemporary metal.

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Post: Meteor City, PO Box 40322, Albuquerque, NM, 87196-0322, USA

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