Bah you get that all important albums of the year list sorted and drawn up and then something comes along in December sending you back to the drawing board and causing the poor band precariously tottering at number 20 to fall over the ledge. To be fair I knew this was coming and with last album ‘Seven Bell’s’ getting my album of the year in 2012 this was bound to end up on the list somewhere, the question still remains where exactly it is going to fit in? There was no denying the dark density of its predecessor but here SOTM have gone and done a kind of concept album based around the sun and in many ways things are lightened with it, but don’t go expecting an all happy shining album here, one look at the cover kind of suggests that this is a sun that is black.
True to form opener ‘No More Colours’ has an obsidian flare running through it from the maudlin glimmering guitar work acoustically drawing you in toward the battering mainframe of the song, which lurches off the words “there is an end of joy’ making it somewhat clear that all is not sunny here. This is a hellacious and monolithic opener and fans old and new should be more than satisfied by its dramatic flair and rip-roaring savagery, one full of strength and sublime melody reminiscent at its slowest to the gothic sprawl of Fields Of The Nephilim. However, things are about to take an unexpected direction with ‘Dirty Black.’ Perhaps it is partly sG’s vocal phrasing and approach and maybe also partly to the melody itself with the instrumentation bordering (dare I say it) on the glam side of things. My instant reaction here was a definite one and so were others that I played it to and there’s no escaping this but it reminded me of David Bowie, perhaps circa his Scary Monsters era! Yep this is going to divide the masses who have never moved on from albums like Carved In Stigmata Wounds but SOTM have never been one to stagnate and the more you listen to this the more it becomes clear this is a totally excellent twist to things and the song is fantastic. The ghost of Bauhaus is there too in the harmonic singing and although it is dark it is also really uplifting, having you hanging on for the next hit of the glorious chorus.
Just as beguiling and enchanting is ‘The Man Behind The Sun’ more of a fable along the lines of The Man In The Moon than the obvious similarly entitled gore film about the Japanese experimental 731 Squadron that it is bound to remind some people of. It’s a song full of mystery in both subject and style which even has nods to Pink Floyd in it adding to an album rich in retro nods. ‘Hole’ has been unveiled early via one of those lyric videos and has gauged extreme reaction and comments due to the clean vocals which swoon around in it drawing you in to the abyss behind them, one full of nihilism courtesy of the words ‘there is no hope.” This track is so strong it’s painful, the apocalyptical and numerological, biblical lyrics actually need to be heard properly and it would be completely crazy mangling them beyond comprehension here. I had another shock listening to the opening baton charge of ‘Here Lies The Sun’ as I thought it was going to deliver a cover of Magazine classic ‘The Light Pours Out Of Me’ at first. Coincidental or another retro homage it moves into another mighty opus full of deliciously dark and devilish melody hinting at so many different styles and genres within it that it’s a pure delight listening to it and trying to get a fix on things.
It took a fair few listens at first for everything to do just that and unveil themselves but when everything suddenly seemed to make complete sense the wallop that this album delivers is truly massive and it is really one that is addictive and impossible to stop playing. The ‘Intoxicating Possession’ of songs like ‘I Took The Sky Away’ is clear and makes me giddy and as high as the sun itself. I can’t wait to see the band unveil these gems live when they tour with Dodheimsgard in March. By then everyone else will have surely been touched by the sun too. Be warned this is no idle sunbather and without proper protection, exposure to it will burn!
(9/10 Pete Woods)