Solstice - To Dust

I absolutely loved Solstice's self-titled debut (or "The Sentencing" depending on which version you got) and I thought that their second record "Pray" was a pretty brilliant album too - so when I heard that they were going to be releasing a new record, to be honest, I crapped myself with joy. How couldn't I? Solstice are one of my favourite death-thrash bands, but then I put the album on and thought "This is a bit... different...?"

I have to say, "To Dust" came as a surprise as it's more of a full-on death metal album than the classic death-thrash that fans were expecting. This works yet at the same time doesn't - it's a compentant release with some great songs, but when you bear in mind that ths is the band that penned such tracks as 'Transmogrified', 'Plastcized' and 'Eyes See Red' all those years ago, it kinda... ruins it a little. The band's decision to go completely death metal isn't neccssarily a bad one though, as tracks like 'Black' and 'Swarm' are utterly devastating slices of metal and the album holds up really well for the most part. An extra special mention goes to Christian Rudes and Dennis Munoz - the latter of which co-wrote some of Demolition Hammer's "Time Bomb" record in 1994 - for their brilliant riffing here, and above all the solos, which retain the classic melodic style that Solstice are reknowned for. The solo on the title track for example brings back a nostalgic feel that can only be rekindled by the band's debut in most cases, and I think that the leadwork present on this record is one of the few things that really indentifies this as a Solstice record. But apart from a few standouts, most notably "Swarm" and a great cover of Cynic's "Extremes", a number of these songs just come across as kind of... well, repetitive and 'samey'.

Christian Rudes does vocals here as well, and he fares very well - they're not really your typical grunty-growly fanfare, more of a violent raspy delivery remeniscent of Morbid Saint, though there are some low death growls here and there. Whilst the style fits and it's certainly an improvement upon his performance on "Pray", it's nothing particularly new by today's standards and there isn't that much in the way of variation. Some of the lyrics are a bit uninspiring too, with some lines being above average and others being just rather bad - nothing new or original to be found here, which is a shame, but the lyrics to the title track are bloody brilliant.

Now it's obvious that drummer Brian Harris (ex-Firewind) is exceptional at what he does, and some of his work here proves that he's one of the better death metal drummers knocking around these days, but after Alex Marquez's work on the first two albums he just doesn't seem to do anything interesting - it's great that he can play so fast, it really is, but that's really all he does here. It seems like a waste and sometimes makes the record comes across as monotonous near the end. Same goes for bass player Garret Scott, who is obvously an extremely talented player but never does anything particularly noteworthy by just following the guitar lines the whole time. Sure, I'd give him credit if the riffs were technical or mindblowingly fast, but they're not. Overall, a good rhythm section that's just marred by a lack of variety. Production wise, the record is at it's peak. A perfectly rounded mix with every instrument having some brilliant tone - especially the lead guitars and the bass - and it's all nice and loud too. If anything this actually makes some of the songs a bit better, since a crappy or misplaced production job would make this album sound exceptionally weak.

I really, really wanted to give this a higher mark. I did, I love Solstice and I really wanted this album to be as worthy a followup as "Pray" was to their debut, but sadly it falls short of the mark as a Solstice release. There's some exceptionally enjoyable death metal here, the band's sound really does work so well in places and the solos are still fucking incredible, but it's the fact that it's got the Solstice moniker slapped on the front of it and the sheer monotony within a few tracks that threatens to stop a great album from being truely remarkable. I'd certainly recommend it to anyone who loves their metal though, as "To Dust" is a really heavy and enjoyable album in it's own right, but because of the name it bears it will disappoint those who expected something closer to classic Solstice. All the same, any album that boasts tracks like 'To Dust', 'Swarm' and 'Sovereignity' deserves respect.

1. Black
2. To Dust
3. Honest Human Emotion
4. Conclusion Disillusion
5. Sovereignty
6. Swarm
7. Moment of Clarity
8. Passionless
9. Extremes (cover Cynic)
10. Impressive Technology
11. The Whisper

CXD Media
Reviewer: Dave Ingram Jr.
Jan 28, 2010

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