Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Solstice - Poems Of Petulancy

This 1992 demo from Dutch Doom/Death band Solstice is another example of where death metal would naturally head in the early 90's as bands tried their hands at extremity by slowing down and creating more ominous and dirge-like tales of sadness, despair and suffering. While some bands such as Morgion and Paradise Lost perfected the polar opposite of what death metal traditionally aimed for in speed, violence and gore, others keen to show their cards before looking at their hand released demos in a manner akin to fifty-two card pickup with virtually no real reason for doing so or the talent to warrant any release at all. In most cases, almost all these bands should have simply folded and waited to be dealt a new hand. Solstice is a tough call though; an example of a band that may have had a chance at being something excellent if they didn't fall apart before 1995.

Poems of Petulancy marks their first demo and, with moments befitting of the excellent artwork and obscure nature of the demo, offers an adept listener with some worthy plodding, grave digging, tomb entering doom death. After an impressive intro complete with obligatory synthesizers and 70's hammer horror move accents, Solstice fall headlong into "Purify My Soul," a pretty typical precursor to the rest of the demo. Some strong walloping, chugging riffs and some speedy parts more in common with Scream Bloody Gore era Death than faster moments of more closely associated acts. The opening track has its moments such as an interesting spoken section after three minutes of economy doom death. It's all just a bit too generic. Overall the opening track is like the first few stone steps on a massive stone staircase spiraling downwards - at first imposing and slightly awe inspiring but after a few feet, you realize it may be a really long tedious trek.

Side A of the tape finishes with the two minute "The Sun Profaned," a forgettable three riff novel worth about one minute of attention and the longer culmination to side heavy, "Perpetual Dreams." By no means is Solstice breaking boundaries with this track either... alternating between fast and slow parts, undulating across the magnetic ribbon like a trickle of water across some bare stone. Sure, the foundation here is strong and solid but, with little in the way of subtlety or detail to etch something interesting across the surface, we're left with but another rock in the sea of stones, another grain of sand on one really long boring beach. The track, with some slight tweaking - a lead here or an overlayed melody over there - could have made this a highlight track, something worth coming back to. There is a solo but, strangely like the other leads on the reel, sounds somehow out of key and awkward though oddly emotive and vibrant in the same sense.

With the end of side heavy we get to flip the tape to side metal. While "Prelude to Winter" is adequate in terms of the rest of the material on the tape, final track "My Mortal Grief" makes the tape worth the listen. With Solstice emphasizing the strong parts of their craft, we get a strong track in the same vein as the rest of the demo but with just the right amount of creepiness, solemnity and disregard for predictability. Solstice find that oft-sought after perfect dramatic contrast here with the descending chord progressions and the feeling of falling into a deeper and deeper depression. Lyrically, while the rest of the tracks are a bit lame in their high-school sentiment of loneliness and sorrow, "My Mortal Grief" falls into the same gimmick here but with just the right amount of self-loathing to tint the song towards a darker hue as opposed towards a self parody of stereotypical social awkwardness.

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