From imagined nihilistic decimation toward introspection so profound that it’d lead to indecision, a prison of pensive revelry awaits the empath who’d set their self apart from the experiences of others. The mirror distorts down in the sagging failure, or thriving pit, of solitude and all that is precious is a singular, sustained thread of thought. Purpose is all that any line or angle presents within four walls, here they lead into a corner that could be the comfort of a limited perspective or, a collapse into claustrophobic tremor. Jerome K. Jerome puts it best: “Only those who have worn the crown of suffering can look upon that wondrous light; and they, when they return, may not speak of it, or tell the mystery they know.” Lovecraftian as that might sound out of context the application toward the emotionally driven language of music becomes intensely vast in the afterglow of a depressive episode. The depths and the return are indoctrination requisite for those of us who would scour every corner for a piece of respite, to remind the downcast is impermanent and that however imbalanced one is, relief comes with time and with the allowance of change. In this sense ‘Contemplations‘, the second full-length from Stockholm, Sweden melodic death/doom metal band Soliloquium, was a choke point for the artist — Where thoughts spiraled out of control, too numerous to process and too damned to keep from piling up. It was a record of uncontrollable thought that’d eventually become a point of charge, a battery that’d heat to the point of bursting internal toxicity. Today its follow-up breaks out of the headspace, a cage of indecision, and pushes forward with deliberate motion. No longer wrangling its beauteous strands into tousled knots, Soliloquium instead whips and thrashes forth, itching to shed auld layers of carapace and bleed away the weight of the world, the empathy and the self-destructive on their third full-length, ‘Things We Leave Behind’.
In the past I think it’d been much more complicated to explain the appeal of Soliloquium for the non-specific death/doom metal fan as the work of guitarist/vocalist Stefan Nordström (Ashes of Life, Ending Quest) and bassist Jonas Bergkvist (Desolator, Wolfcross) hasn’t ever been a plain extension of their shared Katatonia-leaning ‘Peaceville three’ influences but instead an appreciably organic modern contribution to the style, not ‘retro’ but also not falling into the gaudy trappings of what is too-loud and too-current in the world of melodic doom of late. Today the appeal is quite obvious as they’ve chosen to spring into action and punch straight for the temple with lead guitar driven songs full of deep hooks and lovely atmospheric trails into the distance while employing alliances old and new to make ‘Things We Leave Behind’ the most energetic and tastefully succinct record from Soliloquium yet. Of course this means puritanical ‘old school’ death/doom metal fans are generally out of luck, as this sect aims for hook and not riff, melody and not gut-bursting growl. Think along the lines of October Tide, Daylight Dies, or Rapture but with the solemnity of shoegaze and post-rock informing their calmer moments instead of gothic melodrama.
There can indeed be great dignity in terminally depressed heavy metal music and Nordström‘s honest, revelatory approach to lyrics make for music that is often uncomfortably personal, intimate and determined but never exploitative. Perhaps this compares favorable to a lot of the cornball gothic metal records I bought as a teenager simply because there is less of a language barrier as there was in the mid-90’s but I’d suggest it is more likely due to the artist treating the music as a true extension of themselves. If the theme is meant convey the importance of ‘letting it all out’, baring all lingering regret and emotional trauma before striving forward, then that theme is well conveyed. In my own experience the right lead guitar movements can speak the mood and intent better than the average artist can string together prose but in this case each carries considerable weight for the experience. The first rush of “Dead Ends” reveals a man exasperated and directionless by his own devices, featuring some remarkable leads along with returning backing vocals from Joakim Rudemyr (Within the Fall, Desolator) who’d contributed to ‘Contemplations’ and appears on two tracks on ‘What We Leave Behind’. There is something to be said for the power of this opener, something Soliloquium has not done incredible well in the past, because it becomes part of the greater ‘hook’ offered by the full listen as it represents a catchy bout of turmoil to start in line with the best of October Tide‘s reformed era. I’ll often pass on melodic death/doom records with even sharper hooks but there is the sense that Soliloquium arrives sincere and inspired.
“The Discarded” does nothing to kill the momentum, offering yet another gorgeously slung anthemic lead from its first breath, twisting a bit of Insomnium‘s glow into the mix before going full on ‘Brave Murder Day’ around 1:10 minutes in; This grips me like nothing else, by way of nostalgia and the devastating sentiment of the lyrics. Another guest vocal, this one far more prominent and harmonized, comes from Mikko Heikkilä (Kaunis Kuolematon, Dawn of Solace) who helps to bring a bit of maudlin Renske-esque layering to the song’s sentiments, which end on a particularly brutal note of hopelessness. With a bit of a breather in between (“Reminiscence”) I’d normally expect Soliloquium to flounder around a bit which, I know sounds pretty raw but the midpoint of their previous albums tended to aim for calm profundity and I’d zone out a bit. Instead “Existential Misshape” provides a spirited mountain of a song with an appreciable atmospheric plateau in its middle. There is something to be said for the tone of Nordström‘s voice on songs like “Nocturne” as melodic death/doom has it share of wailers and stumbling gothic creatures but so rarely does it have such a tempered ‘modern’ rock glow, a calming hum even when the song storms its hardest into what I’d consider ‘Tunnel of No Light’-esque collapses into heaviness, which I’ve great appreciation for. As we get to the heart of the issue so intensifies the outrage of the narrative towards its vulnerable state, writhing in the naked truth of dysfunction and feeling a great hollowness from a world of folks disconnected from their own spark of humanity. Where ‘Things We Leave Behind’ resolves with “The Recluse” is essentially solitude, where ‘Contemplations’ had begun, but with great insight for how one relates to the world when they are different by way of mental health issues, though this could apply to so many states of being beyond the status quo. The exploration is devastating yet valuable as it concludes.
It also bears mention that the drums have never been such a valuable part of Soliloquium‘s sound as the sessions include Victor Parri‘s (Isole, Valkyrja) talents with detailed and organic capture handled by Jonas Lindström (Ereb Altor, ex-Isole). This is a remarkably ‘real’ presence that is often the last thought many lesser-known melodic death/doom bands apply to their work so it stands out as a powerful but not too dryly polished part of the album. The mix/master from Jari Lindholm (Enshine, Monolithe) likewise lends a professional ear to the balance of this somewhat idiosyncratic-but-familiar record. It does feel like the stars have aligned exactly right for this record, though I frankly don’t care for the simplicity of the album art, and all manner of details serve the greater listening experience. Where parts of ‘Contemplations’ were middling or dragged on ‘Things We Leave Behind’ never gets so lost in the moment that it ends beyond the point of impact. It is a sign of maturing senses and sharpened capability appropriate for a third record and beyond that, a smart vault off of the lessons from the previous record. It is nonetheless a niche product, emotionally driven melodic death/doom metal with appreciably nostalgic and ‘current’ elements that require the honed ears a certain breed, I am of that ilk and appreciate the frankness and catchiness of these songs in equal measure thus I can give a moderately high recommendation for ‘Things We Leave Behind’. A slightly higher mark if you’re either an open-minded old fan of melodic/death doom or a younger fellow bored by the smarmy goths of the 90’s but still want the mood and atmosphere of old.
Moderately high recommendation. 4.0/5.0
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