Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Album Review: Solution .45 - Nightmares In The Waking State: Part 1

We don't always remember and appreciate that there's a distinct difference between being talented as a musician, and being talented as a songwriter. The two are linked tightly enough that it's easy to forget that there are countless people out there who are supremely talented with their instrument of choice, but couldn't write a memorable song if their life depended on it. Christian Älvestam brings that thought to mind, because he is clearly one of the most talented dual vocalists I've heard in metal, and yet almost none of the music he's been a part of has made much of an impression on me. Scar Symmetry's "Holographic Universe" is fun in small doses, but by and large I'm struck by a case of a massive talent who hasn't found a way to give himself the songs that would best showcase that.

Enter Solution .45, which carries on Älvestam's dual role as a harsh and clean singer, throwing a little bit of everything into the pot, stirring it around until you're not quite sure what all the ingredients were. I remember listening to their first album when it came out, and to be honest, that's precisely all I remember about it.

The opener "Wanderer From The Fold" kicks off in full death metal mode, with Älvestam growling his way through the whole track. There are a couple of abrupt transitions that are jarring, but the band is solid, and Älvestam's hook is about as good as a growled one can be. There's a bit too much modern death metal in it for my taste, but they don't forget about melody, so it's an enjoyable enough song. "Perfecting The Void" brings back the signature sound, switching from deep bouncing metal riffs to a slick chorus that showcases Älvestam's clean tones. Unfortunately, that chorus just doesn't have the impact it needs to. It's nice, but it's easy to let slip past.

I like "Bleed Heavens Dry" more, as the balance shifts towards the lighter side. It still has growls and some deeply heavy riffing, but the majority of the vocals are on the clean side, although once again the melody lacks a bit of bite. That is the running theme throughout the record. Whenever Älvestam goes for what is supposed to be a soaring clean chorus, the melodies are streamlined so much that they aren't engaging. He's relying as much on the sound of his voice as on what he's singing, and it doesn't make for songs as good as they should be.

"In Moments Of Despair" stands out for being a near ballad that's as clean and soft as the band has ever been, but other than that, the songs blend together because neither Älvestam's vocals, nor the pummeling metal behind him, break free from the standard-issue long enough to do anything memorable. Chugging a low tuned guitar while double bass drums pound away is heavy, sure, but those kinds of riffs aren't the kind of thing you're ever going to find yourself humming the next day.

And with roughly an hour's worth of music here, this is a long album to get through in one sitting. It would be no matter the quality, but when there aren't highlights every so often to perk your ears up, the length becomes a source of bitterness. This wouldn't be a bad record if it was forty minutes of solid, if unspectacular metal. But at an hour, without a single song that stands out, it stretches out well into the realm of disappointment. Opinions will vary, of course, but for me this is an album that I can say I heard, and that's all I need to say. These guys are talented, but they're lacking the songs to live up to it.

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