Soliloquium – Contemplations (2018) REVIEW

Conceived as an outlet for melodic death/doom aspirations a few years after they’d began collaborating in their respective death metal projects, Stefan Nordström (Ending Quest) and Jonas Bergkvist (Desolator) formed Soliloquium. With some greater admiration for the sullen output from ‘Brave Murder Day’ era Katatonia, the resulting offshoot October Tide, and likewise inspired groups such as Rapture the duo stumbled through a handful of formative releases for the first couple years. ‘The Concept of Escape’ EP from 2013 showed some great promise in terms of less tightly-wound melodic lead guitars reminiscent of ‘Grey Dawn’-era October Tide. Fairly low expectations leading up to their debut full-length, ‘An Empty Frame’, in 2016 were unfounded. It was a surprisingly heavy and professional death/doom record on par with the groups like Swallow the Sun and Rapture‘s swan song ‘Silent Stage’.

For their second full-length no drastic changes are made but several subtleties help to differentiate and improve upon their debut. The overall style focuses less on immediate death metal heaviness and in turn reels the guitar tone in closer to ‘Tunnel of No Light’. I personally revisit this style of death doom metal for the lead guitars and  the generally melodramatic dysthymia expressed; ‘Contemplations’ successfully taps into those engaging aspects of melodic death/doom well beyond the project’s earlier releases. With Mike Watts (Sleepwalker) producing a second time, and likewise providing session drums, it seems Soliloquium isn’t entirely set upon being a ‘retro’-emulation of melodic death/doom metal. Some small measure of progressive metal elements begin to replace the typically gothic affect of the style’s forbears on ‘Contemplations’ to great effect.

Compared to ‘An Empty Frame’ the subdued, introspective sound of ‘Contemplations’ may not be as initially exciting, with plenty of jangling clean guitar passages and greater focus on sung vocals. The death metal vocals are no less harrowing, though, and I’d suggest the heavier parts are at least on par with more recent records from On Thorns I Lay and Apathy Noir. Guest vocals from Mikko Heikkilä (Kaunis Kuolematon) on “Chains” and perhaps more noticeably “In Affect” offer a nice highlight that make up for the slightly ‘off’ diction on the sleepiness of “22”. With further listening I appreciated the more pensive, meditative pacing of ‘Contemplations’ as it felt thematically relevant and a nice step away from what was expected beyond the band’s debut.

Without having spent several decades obsessed with early Katatonia, Paradise Lost, and October Tide while constantly panning for the few bands that approached that same style I might not be as enthusiastic about an album like ‘Contemplations’. As a general fan of the style I appreciate that Soliloquium are expanding their sound further beyond their influences and also avoiding the noisome studio generated atmospherics of bands like Oceans of Grief. There is a stripped-down, naked honesty felt on ‘Contemplations’ that better recalls what made this style of melodic death/doom interesting to begin with. I’m generally willing to trade a mild lack of circular/melodic guitar leads for some greater authenticity, and the overall guitar performance makes up for any lack.

Over the span of about two and a half weeks I found the duo of “Streetlights” and “Unfulfilling Prophecy” to be a major point of resonance. I’d suggest previewing those tracks as a pair initially, if you’re interested further “In Affect” and “Chains” are two of the more elaborate and moving songs on ‘Contemplations’. My taste tends towards the death metal spectrum in terms of vocal performance but I was able to warm up to the clean vocals because they never came across operatic, ‘goth’ or cheesy. In terms of the first half of the year I’d say this and ‘Aegean Sorrow’ are neck and neck for best melodic death/doom of the year.

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Artist Soliloquium
Type Album
Released June 1, 2018
BUY/LISTEN on Transcending Records Website

BUY/LISTEN on Soliloquium’s Bandcamp!

Follow Soliloquium on Facebook
Genres
Melodic Death/Doom Metal,
Progressive Metal

An admission of the outcast. 4.0/5.0

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