If you’ve ever been unfortunate enough as to have read any of my previous ramblings, you may well have noticed that whilst a cynical old soul with half a century on the planet, four decades of which were spent predominantly listening to hard rock and heavy metal, I still enjoy being surprised by new bands and new sounds. Whilst Surya is not a new band, they are a new band to me, and I’d like to thank the editor for forwarding ‘Solastalgia’, their latest album, my way for review.
First off, if you are new to the world of heavy and non-chart orientated metal, Surya would be an unlikely introduction. ‘Solastagia’ is not an album of easy listening, hook laden stompers with catchy lyrics that cry out to be chanted along to; in fact, short of entering the guttural world of extreme black metal, they are pretty much the exact opposite. ‘Anthropocene’ starts the album in a welter of gloom, and it can be fair to say that the band are not all that impressed with this era of mankind if this near funereal dirge is anything to go by; dark, dragging riffs creep from the speakers, the only vocal accompaniment being a short spoken piece commiserating the effect of humanity on the planet, not a eulogy, rather a death poem vilifying what we have as a species inflicted on the planet. Things do not get any lighter with ‘Fenland’, albeit the pace of the guitars picks up, if not the mood. Over the thunderous blasts of bass and drums for the first half of the track the guitars play with an almost frantic, desperate pace, like the struggles of a trapped creature trying to free itself from a net, yet only getting more inexorably entwined, the almost mellow middle section allowing it to take a brief rest before a final doomed flurry to try and escape.
The brief dark whimsy of ‘Fenland’ serves as a short respite before the assault on the senses that is ‘Black Snake Prophecy’, hypnotic looping drum beats and a fuzzy beat providing a bedrock to the sound on which the composition is built, the guitars building in stridency as the track progresses, a brief and pained vocals doing nothing to lift the mood, rather building up the despair. The final track seems to offer some hope, with a title of ‘Saviours’ and an initial, almost hopeful (by comparison) tone to the music. This is soon washed aside by a wave of anguish as almost gentle plucked notes are drowned beneath a wave of crushing riffs.
‘Solastalgia’, as you might expect being named after a condition of mental distress caused by a fear of climate change, is not is not an album to inspire hope, let alone the banging of heads and raising of pints in the pit. The only hope it offers is in the raising of awareness in the belief that action may arise. As such, this pretty much hits the definition of a concept album with the theme that runs through it, delivered through the medium of expertly played doom. As I said at the start, this is not an easy listen, and not a CD to pop in the player to get the party started. If, however, you are willing to invest some time and thought into your music, there is a lot to be gained from Surya’s message.