Since reviewing the reissue of their debut early this year I have become a firm fan of In Solitude and ‘Sister’ has been one of my most anticipated album releases of the year. Their debut was such a confident and assured album full of memorable tracks that not only showed great reverence to the classics but also carried the indelible stamp of their own personality. The follow up album ‘The World. The Flesh. The Devil’, was also very good but suffered slightly from the lofty expectations set by the debut. In ‘Sister’ In Solitude promised a logical step on from its predecessor, but whose logic that is, is open to debate.
‘Sister’ immediately took me aback with its opening track ‘He Comes’ which I was not expecting at all. It’s a light acoustic track with eerie undertones, particularly in the vocals which almost have an ethereal quality about them. With the music I am largely reminded of early 80’s goth bands due to the flat recording and the minimalist nature. The track leads straight into ‘Death Knows Where’ and suddenly the music is more identifiably them. The guitar riff is catchy as anything, with a slight jarring calculated discordance in there to lightly unsettle the listener subconsciously. The moment Åhman’s voice comes in with the style that we have become accustomed to I let out a sigh of relief, as it is his strong and distinctive voice that has been one of the fundamental aspects of their success so far. As catchy as the initial riff is, I find the guitar sound a little bit annoying on this album, but I think that is more a production issue rather than the guitarists themselves. Everything is recorded in such a low and fuzzy way that it doesn’t just remind me of the way some black metal bands like to sound, but it reminds me of listening to albums that were recorded in mono.
The drama of ‘A Buried Sun’ is mainly driven by Åhman’s impassioned delivery which has a dark sleaziness about it, whereas the music, like so many of the tracks here, fall a little short of expectations. There is a very nice guitar break in there towards the end that reminds me very much of Diamond Head’s ‘To The Devil His Due’. As flat as a number of the tracks seem on here though there is a major exception in the title track which I think is one of the very best songs they have done. It carries an air of the sinister and whilst it may seem incredibly raw on the first listen you soon become attuned to this. The driving bass guitar and drums in the chorus really add the weight it needs, and perhaps the weight a lot of the rest of the album is lacking.
The songwriting is incredibly confident on this album, and clearly an evolution of their earlier material, but does it actually work? I’m unconvinced but not entirely dismissive. I’ve been listening to this album for a few weeks now and my initial reaction was really not good to say the least. Over time though as the songs have been sinking in I have been enjoying them a lot more, so it’s definitely a grower. The major problem here is the production which is having such an effect on the music that it detracts from the craftsmanship that has actually gone into the songs and does the musicians a great disservice. I suspect that ‘Sister’ is actually an excellent album, yet strangely at the moment it sounds as if it is unfinished and what we actually have is an album full of rather impressive demos.
(7/10 Lee Kimber)