Tommy Southard: Guitars
Justin Daniels: Guitars
Rob Hultz: Bass
Kenny Lund: Drums
Recorded at Trax East, Mad Oak Studio, Semaphore Studio & Hot Horse Sound.
Recorded by Eric Rachel, Bennie Grotto, Brian Koerber, Sanford Parker & Justin Seitz.
Produced by Solace.
Mastered by Chris Goosman @ Baseline Audio Labs - Ann Arbor, MI.
All lyrics by Jason.
Artwork and Layout by Paul Vismara.
Live photo and angel photo by Penelope Pappas.
One of the most important and best US Stoner and Doom Bands are back with a new output. Their 2000 output FURTHER is still one of my favourite albums, maybe for my whole live. The following "13" was good too, but without the hypnotizing feeling, without that crushing songs like on the debut. But good too! And after a great THE BLACK BLACK EP and great live-shows in Germany, here it is: A.D. And with that record they will get again the throne in the underground, but I think for more it is not good enough. Don`t understand me wrong. This record is as good as "13", but more confused, more complex and not easy at the beginning and of course not outstanding like the debut 10 years ago. They still combining Stoner and Doom Metal into a heavy massive monster. If you dive into that record, you will get a great experience indeed. But I prefer still the dynamic and clear song structures from the debut. The guitar riffs are still awesome and heavy and of course the mighty, unique vocals from Jason (he changed his style a little...sometimes clear and sometimes screaming...) are a big point in that band. Slow Stoner Rocker like SIX YEAR TRAINWRECK or the doomy ZA GAMMAN are very cool. But on the other side you will find new influences like King Crimson comparisons at THE IMMORTAL, THE DEAD AND THE NOTHING (progressive elements in it) or FROM BELOW (a great epic track). The opener THE DISILLUSIONED PROPHET is the most energetic song on that record in my eyes and with THE SKULL OF THE HEAD OF A MAN they do some fast punk stuff. So, we have Stoner, Doom and Progressive Metal on a record recorded from one of the hottest underground bands. Highly recommended.
Solace’s last full length masterpiece, 13, was released in 2003, but they have given us enough little teasers in the meantime to reassure us that they hadn’t dropped off the face of the planet. Their contributions to a split E.P. in 2004 included a swaggering and memorable cover of Link Wray’s Rumble. And their 2007′s The Black Black, while technically only a four track E.P., still gave us about thirty minutes worth of quality riffs.
Still, the recent release of their third full length album, A.D., was greeted with open arms and tears of joy by the heavy music loving brethren and sistren around the world. “Yay!”, did they cry. “Verily, it is a momentous occasion! I shall bring out a barrel of our finest wine, my dear, we must feast to mark this special day!”. Or something like that.
So what’s so special about this band anyway? Well, it’s interesting you should ask…
To explain, I’ll have to give you a quick history lesson. Apologies if you already know this bit. I’ll try to use dot points where possible so you can easily skip over the parts you know.
Heavy metal started in the mid-70′s with a band from Birmingham, England, called Black Sabbath. Black Sabbath’s music combined three key elements:
* technical precision, particularly from lead guitarist Tony Iommi and vocalist Ozzy Osbourne;
* an underlying ‘grooviness’ provided by the rhythm section, through the swinging, cymbal-heavy drums of Bill Ward, and the independent noodlings of bass maestro Geezer Butler; and
* a mood of ‘heaviness’, provided by the use of detuned, distorted guitars, minor chords and slow doomy sections, and dark imagery in the lyrical themes and artwork.
Different bands took different elements of Black Sabbath’s sound and ran with them:
* Speed and thrash metal bands like Iron Maiden and Slayer took the technical precision and heaviness but lost the groove. Metallica tried to bring some of that groove and swing into their music in the mid 90′s, much to the consternation of many fans;
* Hard rock bands like AC/DC ran with the precision and groove but lost the heaviness;
* Grunge had groove and a modicum of heaviness but didn’t quite have the technical impressiveness of their metal contemporaries (but got close at times with Soundgarden, Alice in Chains and the like);
* Doom metal riffs were overwhelmingly heavy, but slowing things down takes out a lot of the groove out of the music, and the vocals weren’t much chop either; and
* Death metal got close at times when they rocked out (a la Entombed), but reducing their vocals to grunts and growls cost them some points off their technical precision rating too.
As technology improved through the 80′s and 90′s bands were able to bring a new element to the sound: modern production techniques. However, very few bands were able to successfully recombine the key three elements of Sabbath’s sound, even as late as the early 90s.
Kyuss bridged the gap between the rocking, vocal friendly grunge bands of the early 90′s and the heaviness and technical precision of the metal scene. Their guitar sound was low and heavy, but was pushed along by a rocking rhythm section, with great singing and solo work to boot.
Then Solace came along.
They took all of that, wrapped it up and added some of the imagery and doomy heaviness of yesteryear, finally approximating the brilliant combination of key components originally showcased by Black Sabbath.
Sure, there are Sabbathy moments on this album, like the instant transformation two thirds of the way through Six-Year Train Wreck, and Kyussy moments too, like in the slow, dreamy buildups of Borrowed Immunity and From Below.
I’ve got no problem with bands being influenced by other bands. I don’t think any artist is ever completely original or free of influences. As regular readers will know, as long as the influences are worthy, and are treated respectfully and not just blatantly ripped off, I’m OK with it. It also helps if the band can bring a little of something extra to freshen up the old formula.
In this case Solace wear their Sabbath and Kyuss influences on their collective sleeve (ewww!), but play original riffs and write great songs, as well as adding the clean, precise sound afforded by modern music production techniques. In short, they bring a lot to the table, so you can forgive them their obvious influences.
There’s plenty of room for the vocalist, who inhabits the lofty regions once stalked by the likes of Osbourne, Cornell and Garcia. Lead guitarist Tommy Southard rips out Iommi-esque riffs like they’re going out of fashion, and the rhythm section generally swings along at a nice middle tempo underneath it all, accommodating some really rocking moments throughout.
There’s enough variety among the nine tracks to hold the interest of even the most marginally convinced listener. There are some fast ones to kick it off, and a couple of short fast songs mixed in with the longer, slower stuff further on. There are plenty of twists and turns and complexity in the longer tracks too. Overall, this is an album with nine strong and interesting tracks.
The production duties are handled by a bloke called Benny Grotto, who stacks layer upon layer with a trowel here to great effect. He’s worked with another band recently called Gozu who I haven’t checked out yet but will be sure to get onto soon.
This is a worthy addition to the heavy music oeuvre that rediscovers and reweaves the key threads of the glory days, adds a modern sound and brings a new level of creativity and artistic vision to boot.
If that doesn’t sound like your thing, you probably stopped reading at the first dot point, but if not thanks for sticking with me, and stay tuned for Felix’s look at the latest Spiderman PS3 game which will be posted soon – you know it!
And, of course, if that does sound like your thing then you probably should check out this new Solace album.
Summary: Solace proudly present their classy, yet heavily layered songcraft that elevates them above the stoner metal fray.
There was an element of anticipation verging on annoyance involved in the release of "A.D.", the long-awaited third full-length album by New Jersey's Solace. Initially, the disc was supposed to be released in late 2007 shortly after the band's being signed up to Small Stone Records. Yet, it took the act plenty of time to come up with a worthwhile follower to 2003's "13", their most accomplished work to date and most certainly one of the very best stoner metal albums ever recorded. "13" was a breath of fresh air vigorously blending stoner and doom metal with a hint of hard rock thrown in. It highlighted the abilities of Solace as both supreme musicians and songwriters. The question arises then: Is "A.D." as good as its excellent predecessor? The answer is straightforward negative. However, the album still proves to be one of the most notable underground metal releases of the year.
It will come as a relief for fans that their style hasn't changed a lot throughout the long 7-year hiatus. It's still very much the same band effectively combining stoner and doom metal influences into a heavy-as-hell whirlwind of sound. The only aspect that differentiates "A.D." from the act's previous releases is a way clearer inclination towards more complex, less hook-driven compositions that hardly ever resemble the conventional verse-chorus song structure. That's why, "A.D." is most certainly their least accessible as well as most progressive disc. It's not really easy to encompass numerous tempo changes and layers of guitars in one go, yet getting acquainted with the album might be a stimulating experience.
Once again we are dealing with excellent musicians. Solace have been always about monstrous guitar riffs. This time around they seem even more sophisticated than before often involving impressive interplays between Tommy Southard and Justin Daniels (e.g. the bridge of "Borrowed Immunity"). In addition, the riffs are appropriately diverse ranging from infectiously slow stoner rock of "Six Year Trainwreck" to sheer full-fledged doom metal of "Za Gamman." For a change the guitarists often implement highly technical trash soloing as well as meditational art rock riffs resembling King Crimson ("The Immortal, the Dead and the Nothing" and "From Below"). Their cooperation seems to be surprisingly fluid and monolithic throughout the album. The rhythm section is also incredibly dynamic providing a constantly groovy core to the act's trademark guitar-oriented sound. As regards vocals, Jason delivers his extremely layered blend of melodic singing along with demented screams that made "13" so infectious. His vocals are always in line with the music, which is the skill that plenty of his contemporaries would be better off developing.
Even if the level of songwriting does not quite match "13", it's difficult to select any particular standout tracks with the album so stellar as this one. Opener "The Disillusioned Prohpet" is the most energetic and contains the most jaw-dropping vocal performance, while "The Immortal, the Dead and the Nothing" has some really captivating progressions going for it. Closer "From Beyond" is certainly the most epic track that works so well due to its catchy vocal melodies. "The Skull Of the Head of a Man" provides a welcome change of pace with its ultra-fast aggressive punk approach. There are some minor missteps and stale passages though. They're particularly apparent when the leading riffs to several songs overstay their welcome. Making more selective choices in the production process should have easily eradicated this problem.
Other than that, Solace proudly present their classy, yet heavily layered songcraft that elevates them above the fray. "A.D." reflects the act's grand aspirations with an expertly produced hybrid of stoner, doom and progressive metal. Still underground and underappreciated by most, this is one of these obscure albums that just deserve to be heard by any means. Highly recommended.
- Greg Fisher
New Jersey stoner doom metal quintet Solace have experienced an inordinate share of hardships during their decade-plus career, going through drummers quicker than Spinal Tap while enduring unexpected hiatuses, serious medical situations, and lineup rearranging, yet this unit’s unsurpassed perseverance with a shred of good fortune has rewarded this hexed crew with a sensational sinewy nine-track offering entitled AD. From the persistent streams of blistering twin guitar to the ominous Black Sabbath shadow cast over the entire collection of tracks (especially vocally), this disc willfully wallows in sludgy recesses of the hard rock continuum with a Monster Magnet-esque warble, a hardcore backbone, streams of grizzled melodies, and a thick and plodding bottom end keeping the atmosphere brooding while leading their sojourn through the haze. Seven years between albums is an eternity especially in today’s rapid-pace world, yet Solace took their time, assembled the proper band, and created a mammoth multi-faceted stoner metal tour de force full of the molten riffs and dynamic compositions that demand attention and deserve respect in the process.
New Jersey’s Solace may just be the world’s best unknown rock band. They have suffered a number of setbacks over the years, from quitting band members to random accidents, but now their third full- length album is out at last.
Describing a band’s sound is a thankless task, so I ‘ll try to be brief. You could call Solace’s music hard rock or classic metal (it’s tempting to call them stoner rock, but- like most of the bands that are called that- they seem to hate the term). This is bike- riding, bong- hitting, devil- worshipping music. Think groovy doom stuff like Pentagram or The Obsessed (they ‘ve played with Wino), very early Monster Magnet (they’ re friends with Ed Mundell), Down, C.O.C., even Alice In Chains. Basically, if you like any of the aforementioned bands, you will fucking love this. You need this album. You just didn’t know it until now. You ‘ve been warned.
- Dimitris Kontogiannis
New Jersey's heavy flagship SOLACE returns with their third album and once again prove that they are still something very special. Meanwhile they have been signed by Small Stone Records where they fit particularly good. One thing is certain: 'A.D.' is a monster, that is so enormous that I stand in awe after the first spins. But what makes them so special? Well, there are different reasons for this. First, when they are showing off their impressive musicianship and ability to create a great chemistry within the band, then I can only advise a lot of other heavy bands to seek shelter from SOLACE' thunderous sonic storm. The interplay between these forces is impeccable. Each instrument assimilate and merge into each other while the unique vocals of Jason are the cherry on top. Damn, this guy can sing!
Secondly, the manner in which SOLACE combine different musical styles, ranging from 1970's heavy rock and classic heavy metal to hardcore punk and doom, is unequalled and exceptionally. Of course, they are not the only band doing this, but there are only a few that develop such an individual sound like SOLACE. And last but not least, there are these epic, monstrously and carefully arranged songs. They are packed with surprising twists, crushing riffs and tasteful hooklines. All this can be found on 'A.D.' which was a difficult birth. Recorded at no less than four studios with no fewer than five engineers, SOLACE have pushed the genre into new realms of complexity and heaviness. It was worthwile to wait seven years and I am confident that everyone who loves 'Further' and '13' as well as the 'The Black Black' EP will dig 'A.D.'.
There's only one significant difference to the previous releases - this is SOLACE' best and fully developed work and one should consider that the other material is also extraordinary good. It's a dark album and the great coverartwork of Paul Vismara perfectly embodies this spirit. There are moments of melancholy, which make sure that 'A.D.' becomes even more intensive. Due to the mighty and powerful production, this beast evolves a cinematic character and it's captivating from the first note. SOLACE is still capable to develop an unmistakable, impenetrable atmosphere. Each of the nine tracks is brimming with variety so that the playing time of one hour goes by like water. For me personally, 'A.D.' is one of the musical highlights in 2010. I can only give you one advice: buy it. If you have a good taste in heavy music, you will not regret it. Trust me!
Solace must have wondered if this album would ever see the light of day. It's been 7 years since their last full length offering "13" with only a handful of split releases and EPs to remind us they still exist. Beset by all manner of obstacles...band members leaving and returning, cancelled tours and serious illness...most bands would have thrown in the towel but Solace have chins of steel and taken every punch and turned it into their musical fuel to create a masterpiece that screams maturity, vitality and a breadth of scope that they could only dream of previously.
"A.D." is a far more complex album than its predecessors. The brutal elements reach a greater level of savagery as on opener "The Disillusioned Prophet" where vocalist Jason alternates between a vicious throat shredding yell that would make most black metal vocalists cack their undies to a clean, powerful, melodic soar that evokes Ozzy and Dave Wyndorf. Throughout this album Solace have moved away from their more stoner metal roots and developed a broader palette that, although still drawing on their older sound, incorporates elements of NWOBHM, hardcore, thrash and prog. There is a sense of frustration and purpose here that sounds like the musical equivalent of Josef Fritzl's daughter finally finding her dad's keys!!!! The guitars of Tommy Southard and Justin Daniels duel in the classic sense of Thin Lizzy or Iron Maiden but with an added intensity and bite and throughout Jason's vocals excel as his multi-layered approach adds a richness and depth that gives the music a brutal yet classic feel.
What immediately struck me about this album was how much it reminds me of the classic Sabbath albums like "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" or Sabotage", not so much in the actual sound but in the breadth and experimentalism of the song writing. The band easily step from the more Southern meets Sabbath grooves of "Six Year Trainwreck" and "Za Gamman" to the teeth bared thrash assault of "The Skull Of The Head Of A Man" and all points in between. In fact on "Six Year Trainwreck" Jason does a passable impression of a stronger, fitter Ozzy and Mister Iommi would have given his finger tips for the verse riff...if he had any!!!
Each song here is a complex, woven tapestry of riffing that pulls on the whole history of metal yet no riff is wasted or thrown in randomly. Each part of each song is as flicknife sharp, the only issue is not how memorable each part is, just how damn many parts there are to remember!!!! That, however, works for the album as the initial listen is an overwhelming experience yet repeated listens quickly foster a sense of familiarity that Solace's earlier work didn't quite have and guarantee it the status of a stayer...this is no mere one listen wonder.
In many ways Solace are the perfect metal band...they have the crushing heaviness of a lap dance from a rhino, big fat-assed grooves, soul and above all songs all wrapped up in a fat and juicy production. If they are able to put the bad Juju behind them that caused the album's 7 year delay (as some witty soul dubbed it "Chinese Doomocracy") and focus on the future, Solace should become one of metal's major players on the back of "A.D.". Just wait for Metallica to jump on the bandwagon and offer them a tour!!!!
The saying goes that imitation is the best form of flattery, well in that case there is a certain heavy rock band from Atlanta who will be extremely flattered upon hearing the 'The Disillusioned Prophet' the opening track from Solace's latest album 'AD' along with the following number 'The Immortal, The Dead, And The Nothing' as they sound not unlike metal mammoths Mastodon.
The question I guess being "what came first the Solace chicken or the Mastodon egg", but after researching the band, I eventually discovered the band were formed from the ashes of New Jersey rockers Godspeed, so you have to wonder whether or not either band were actually influenced by one another or if it is purely a musical coincidence?
Either way just like Mastodon these talented New Jersey stoner rockers know how to rock as displayed on this, their third album.
Following on from their debut album 'Further' in 2001 and '13' released in 2003 this album has been a long time coming, originally intended for release in 2005 and finally seeing the light of day here in 2010. As I continued to listen to the album I began to realise my initial reaction to the album may have been slightly premature as I discover there are far more strings to Solace's bow than I originally thought as throughout the album they display various musical styles whilst still remaining in the stoner rock genre (even though I do believe that vocalist Jason considers the band to be hard rock 'n' roll opposed to the label that they have been tagged with).
- David Whistance
The infectious blues guitaring that opens 'Six Year Train Wreck' taking on an early Sabbath approach before taking it down to a Southern stoner rock vibe with the suitably titled 'Down South Dog'. If I had to pick one band that I love that has managed to survive through various tragedies and changing musical trends then it would have to be Seattle legends Alice In Chains, and the track 'The Eyes Of The Vulture' simply reminds be of that wonderful band and that has got to be a good thing.
Every now and again a band will release a song with such an awe inspiring title that it will grab your attention and demand you hear more, never has the next song been so apt 'The Skull Of The Head Of A Man' a far more brutal number than the rest of the album, displaying their hardcore influences firmly on their sleeves.
The album finishes with a heavy doom laden number 'From Below' and weighing in at nearly ten minutes long it's not for the faint hearted, yet stick with it and you will be musically blessed. If I were to be honest I would have to confess to not being aware of Solace and wasn't really expecting great things when I received the CD, but I could not have been more wrong - this is a fantastic album that hasn't really got a negative point.
Whether or not Solace are stoner rock, doom rock or simply hard rock, I'd urge anybody out there who loves rock to get this album and if you are in France at the tail end of June then make sure you check them out at this year's Hellfest.
D’you remember Godspeed, early nineties one-album riff-rock outfit? I have to say I don’t, but I was still pretty new to metal in those days, and the main way I found new music was by discovering a mate had an interesting album that I could dub onto a C90. (So much for home taping killing music, eh?) Well, it seems Godspeed split up, reconvened, added some new players, and became Solace, who’ve had another four albums out before this, their début for Small Stone Records. Regular readers (and connoisseurs of beefy guitar music in general) will know Small Stone as a haven for all things riff-rawk, and as such Solace are well placed, but there’s more to these guys than the standard Sabbath retreads.
That said, the ghost of Sabbath hangs heavily over A.D. – no bad thing as such, even though the debt can be blindingly obvious at times – but Solace add extra ingredients to the mix for a sound all their own. The bludgeon of nineties hardcore; the jagged rhythms, harmonised leads and face-off solo-trading of thrash; the stately riffola of the darker end of the desert… all these combine into a sort of metal Megatron, vast, various and powerful, welded together like a scrapyard Frankenstein’s monster powered by high-octane gasoline and brow-furrowed anger. Frontman Jason (formerly of Glueneck, another band whose name rings only the vaguest of bells) also brings a lot of different ideas to the table, seemingly channeling some of the more classic vocal styles of the last forty years, starting (naturally enough) with the good Mr Osbourne in his prime – think of those chorused choir-of-spaced-out-Satanists wails from the classic Sabbath material – and detouring through tough-guy hardcore roars and nasal thrasher ranting. There are even moments where he sounds like he’s going to turn into Dave Wyndorf – on album closer “From Below”, for instance, and in midway-marker “Borrowed Immunity”, which sounds uncannily like Monster Magnet’s “Dopes to Infinity” spiced up with some thrash savagery – and if it’s a little frustrating that he seems to have no style that’s his and his alone, his delivery is powerful enough to keep your attention, and always feels appropriate to whatever the rest of the band is doing (a skill a lot of younger bands could really do with developing).
As is obligatory with Small Stone releases, I must mention the excellent frills-free production: when Solace hit a big open drop-D on the top beat of a new section, the tone that washes out of the speakers is enough to roll you back on your heels with a huge grin on your face. If you love the roar of fuzzed guitars punching their way out of big old valve amps, this is the label you should be subscribed to – even if the tunes aren’t totally to your taste, you can always luxuriate in the sound itself.
Which is, to some extent, exactly what I found myself doing here. I dare say if someone had handed me A.D. in 1992 I’d have gone completely apeshit for it; I was just transitioning from thrash to hardcore at the time, and Solace’s blending of the two with classic metal beef is both timely and timeless. And I can still appreciate it now – A.D. is packed with strong songs, adventurous dynamics and powerful playing, and that never goes out of fashion in this household – but it’s a little too jagged to make my regular playlist. I guess I’m just all thrashed out these days… the horrors of getting old, eh?
But lest I accidentally sell a good album short (and end up fielding offended comments, as I did with the last Small Stone release I reviewed a few weeks back), let’s be clear: A.D. is quality stuff, and a sincerely recommended antidote to the over-faithful retro-thrash mimicry that haunts the musical marketplace. It’s a little strong for regular daily consumption, perhaps, but next time I need to psyche myself up for some serious confrontation, I’ll be seeking Solace before I leave the house.
- The Editor
Groove, saturation, stoner, metal. Those are the words that come to summarize this third album from New Jersey. This album is nothing innovative compared to previous productions of the group, but they at least have the merit of good stoner rock families.
Ca groove as it should, but the little peculiarity of Solace, is that their stoner metal is tinted with guitars who are smoking amps and never stop. It all goes to saturated and sometimes wah you balance a small layer of more if you did not understand that you will Solace paste the brain at the bottom of the skull! One thing is certain, the riffs will take place in your head and never leave.
The riffs are heavy, the solos still incisive (and purely pleasurable). The song goes pretty calm and easy stone to a song eyeing punk or hardcore and I think this is the place where the disc loses some intensity.
Indeed this alternation is sometimes awkward which can cause a kind of disengagement, withdrawal from the musical journey of Solace proposes. To be more direct, you're in the desert in a 4x4 and then wham rotted off the road, a punctured wheel .... You're in trouble, how do you get out? " That is the kind of sensation that you feel bad when changing vocal registers. In short all that to say that for me, only the song quiet and rock hadst not sufficient and need this song sometimes hardcore or sludge.
In short it is always Solace that once again gives us an album of stoner quality but unfortunately does not break the house down. But he will always find its place in your shelf between Kyuss, Clutch and co ...!
Solace was one of the bands on Roadburn 2006 so it won't come as a surprise when I tell you that this band plays heavy, riff-oriented metal. The five guys from New Jersey once had their roots in the band Godspeed. In Solace they are inspired by Black Sabbath, Monster Magnet and the Melvins. With some riffs you also hear they’ve listened to High on Fire and Iron Maiden (they participated on an Iron Maiden tribute).
I am glad I received 'A.D.' now, because this groovy stuff works best in the summer. This mixture of Heavy Metal and Doom is never original of course, but Solace still makes it sound very tasty. The vocals are mostly clean-sung, but in a song like "Six Year Trainwreck" there's also room for screaming vocals just as the Melvins do. The song is the perfect combination between Black Sabbath and the Melvins.
Vocalist Jason has an inspiring voice, but still he can’t conceal that not every song is striking. The riffs in “Borrowed Immunity” and “The Eyes of the Vulture” just aren’t screaming for more. Solace is better in the uptempo songs like “Down South Dog” simply because these have the energy and soul.
"The Skull of the Head of a Man" is the surprise of the record; on hardcore punk speed the band is raging like a maniac; a welcome variety in the slow mass of pure heaviness. Closing after this one is "From Below", a ten minute conclusion of this heavy output. At the end of this song the band luckily also finds the throttle making ‘A.D.’ another cool record from Small Stone!
New Jersey’s Solace are usually categorized as a “stoner” or “doom” band but to my ears they’re a straight up metal band from the school of 1982. Their new one A.D. reeks of classic Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden and maybe even some vintage Alice Cooper, too. A.D. is their first album in 7 years and fans have been waiting impatiently dubbing it “Jersey Democracy” as the band went through some line up changes and several recording sessions.
In the end, it all seemed to work out alright because A.D. is a kick ass album from start to finish. Produced by the band, this thing sounds great. The guitars of Tommy Southard and Justin Daniels sound massive as they kick out catchy riffs, fills and solos. Rob Hultz’s bass thuds along nicely with Kenny Lund’s tasteful drumming. Jason (no last name) sings his ass off and has layered some nice harmonies throughout the entire record. In this style of music, vocals usually take a back seat, but Jason’s are upfront. He sounds pissed off and you can hear every word.
The 9 songs of A.D. comprise almost an hour of music. Most of them are over the 5 minute mark but have plenty of variety to keep your ears from getting bored. Album opener “The Disillusioned Prophet” starts off fast and heavy, slows down and then blasts off into an Iron Maiden gallop. “Six Year Trainwreck” has a great opening riff that combines vintage Deep Purple with Captain Beyond before evolving into a “Children of the Grave” romp. “Down South Dog” is a Quaalude worthy Sabbath boogie with a spaced out guitar solo. “The Skull of The Head of a Man” begins slow and creepy before switching gears into pure old school hardcore punk. In true hardcore spirit, it’s over in about 2 minutes. The album wraps up with the slow burn of the 9 minute epic “From Below.”
Lots of bands operate in this area of metal that includes 70’s hard rock but few can match Solace in terms of creativity and attitude. They’ve been at it for a long time and hopefully we won’t have to wait another 7 years for the next one.
Solace is not exactly unknown in The Netherlands, not in the least because they have played the Roadburn festival twice. A lot of bands play there, but after listening to A.D. I can understand why this band belongs there. Because this is very high level DOOM that sounds like you are playing an old fashioned thrash 45 rpm EP at 16 rpm.
This rocks like a hurricane and is more overpowering than a herd of hippos trampling all over your belly. Really everything on you starts to shake, ensuring that all loose or expendable bodyparts drop off spontaneously. That’s not only caused by the music, but also by the punch-in-the-face production. The ultra low guitars and penetrating vocals complete the procedure. Musically A.D. is a good example of how you can be as heavy as f*ck without ignoring the psychedelic element.
At one point you get dragged into the seventies, the other you will be slammed back and dropped into the 21st century. When this happens these men are heavier than most band who pretend to be just that. That’s when Solace blows you off your chair. It only acknowledges the fact that these guys know what’s what and that they managed to make all the music gel together.
Solace sticks to reasonably lengthy songs, and by slowing down when necessary they keep the stress bow tightly wound at all times for the heavier parts. This to me is a mix of High On Fire, White Buzz, Black Sabbath, Keelhaul and Municipal Waste. Quite some list.
Even before dropping needle to the groove, one can almost hear the collective sigh of relief that accompanied the 2010 release of Solace's long, make that looong, awaited third album, A.D. Let's review: formed in 1997 from the ashes of New Jersey stoners Godspeed, Solace issued their first album, Further, in 2001; their second, 13, in 2003 (both through Meteor City); inked a new deal with Small Stone in 2007 (under the assumption that album number three was imminent), and then proceed to spend the next few years haunting the label's "Coming Soon" press releases; almost making it into stores in 2009 before finally emerging the following year — hallelujah! And although the reasons for this ordeal ranged from business issues and simple misunderstandings to bandmembers coming and going (bassist Bob Hulz was out, then back in; drummer Kenny Lund was replaced by the Atomic Bitchwax's Keith Ackerman, etc.), it was probably Solace's own penchant for self-sabotage and endless second-guessing in the studio that almost turned A.D. into the Chinese Democracy of stoner rock. Almost because bandleader Tommy Southard and his charges actually wrested victory from the jaws of defeat with a set of new songs that are generally as good as they are overwrought…and all of it without having to crash a Harley Davidson into a grand piano like Axl Rose! All kidding aside, "intense" is another word that comes immediately to mind in view of raging album openers "The Disillusioned Prophet" and "The Immortal, The Dead, and The Nothing," which, along with subsequent speedsters "Down South Dog" and weirdly named "The Skull of the Head of a Man" (a full-on hardcore detour!), reflect the urgency of a band making up for lost time. But the slower tempos typical of Solace's albums past still crop up here as well, via the doom-laden grooves guiding tracks like "Borrowed Immunity," "The Eyes of the Vulture," "From Below," and "Six-Year Trainwreck," the latter of which eventually achieves yet another trashing finale. In light of all this furious metallic mayhem, the bluesy "Za Gamman" really helps lighten the mood some, but if there's a single common thread to A.D. it's that it's a guitar album through and through — even by the standards of this genre. All the remaining musicians can do is hang on for dear life in the thick of Southard's and Justin Daniels' six-string maelstrom, including singer Jason, who occasionally sounds a little buried in the overall mix, but it's hard to imagine too many Solace fans crying foul over this. Heck, after waiting seven years for A.D., they should be crying tears of joy, exclusively, especially since Solace delivered the goods when all was said and done.
- Eduardo Rivadavia
Another monolith of rock with a new album is Solace and their rock opus “A.D.” Where Karma To Burn is about groove and subtlety Solace is all about groove and power. This is a band that believes in weight, not just heaviness but actual weight to what they do. Each Solace tune on A.D. lands like a ton of bricks on your head with vocals that scream through your brain and rattle your spine. This isn’t rock for the faint of heart; this is Samurai Rock in that it brings up the feelings of having fought a vicious battle against an unbeatable foe.
Don’t get me wrong, A.D. is a kick ass album but these are extensive, hard-hitting jams that pound on your skull from beginning to end. This isn’t stonerrock or doom or metal, it’s a wacked out hybrid of all three. The riffs are huge and thick but tuned down so far you can feel them reverberate through your soul. Yet nothing on the album sounds muddy like doom nor does it plod along like so many bands of that genre do.
Solace have tempo in their thickness and strong guitars that pluck through notes as much as they rely on huge chords to carry the songs. You would think these varying elements would work against each other but Solace manage to stay in control, not letting anything get away from them.
Remember now these are also songs that clock in anywhere from five minutes up to nine so it isn’t like Solace jump in and jump out. They find a nice groove and ride it for as long as they can. When it works, like with the song “Six Year Trainwreck”, Solace delivers some of the best heavy music out there.
Listen to how they change up their style with “The Eyes Of The Vulture” by relying more on a straight rhythm and mood than just a heavy riff. I don’t know if Solace like experimenting or just fucking with their audience but whatever it is they love to toss in change ups. Like Karma To Burn it’s easy to get lost in the songs and reduce Solace to another groove band. To do that is to really miss all the cool stuff Solace work into what they do.
If I had to nitpick my only problem with A.D. is that it could’ve used another song like “The Skull Of The Head Of A Man”, a two minutes plus fast paced number that just rips the flesh right off of your face. With tunes clocking in as lengthy as these Solace would’ve done well to inject one more of these higher paced numbers. It’s not a big deal and it doesn’t take away from the record it’s just something I think the album could have used. Not because the long songs are boring but more because the power of that shorter tune is undeniable.
There aren’t too many soldiers from the days of stonerrock still standing and even fewer doing anything interesting. Solace have braved those times and come out as a better, stronger and more musically inclined band than most of their peers. Like High On Fire, Solace and Karma To Burn both create heavy music for adults in a world overrun by extreme music for kiddies.
- Iann Robinson
There's a moment when anticipation is bested by apathy, and A.D., the long-gestating third full-length by New Jersey's Solace, crossed from one to the other sometime last year. I can't speak for anyone else, but the news that it was finally being released wasn't so much greeted with "Hot damn, it's about time!" as it was "God damn, it's about time."
Not surprisingly, the blame lays almost entirely with the band (although a modicum falls on Small Stone Records' doorstep, who operated under the mistaken assumption that this opus would be released shortly after signing the group in late 2007 and therefore promoted it in a perpetual cycle of "coming soon"). They are, after all, perennial underdogs in an endless fight against themselves.
Since the group is its own worst enemy - I could easily spend a paragraph or two detailing how adept they are at sabotaging their best interests - that makes the success of A.D. all the more welcome. Sure, it may have taken them seven years and more than the usual share of turnover (bassist Rob Hultz was replaced by Black NASA's Duane Hutter, who was in turn replaced by Hultz; drummer Kenny Lund left the band sometime in 2008, which led to original drummer Keith Ackerman's return), but A.D. sounds like the work of a band that knows exactly what it wants and will stop at nothing to reach that goal.
Not as immediately accessible as the "Fuck you, we're not dead" salvo that was The Black Black, AD is almost recklessly dense, a labyrinth display of everything Solace has to offer (by comparison, The Black Black's three originals perfectly exemplified the best of what the band brought to the table). Even when comparing the final mastered version of opener "The Disillusioned Prophet" against its rough mix from last year, there's so much going on within that track's seven minutes and three seconds, it's practically a new song. We're talking layers upon layers of guitar, countered by an equally absurd amount of vocals.
But here's the catch - despite the obvious studio-centric slant and their penchant for adding more to more, A.D. never topples under the weight of the band's grand aspirations. The songs, whether the Hessian metal aggression of "Disillusioned Prophet" and "The Immortal, the Dead and the Nothing," the more traditional doom of "Za Gamman" and "The Eyes of the Vulture," or the breakneck hardcore of "Skull of the Head of a Man" (a lesser companion to "Cement Stitches," but still a vicious throat puncher), are decidedly and distinctly Solace. They've always been credited as being as guitarists' band, and while there are plenty of riffs and solos (and hey, even more solos) to back up that assertion, that's not giving enough credit to singer Jason, who manages to justify the entirety of his extended time in the studio with the vocal line that kicks in around two minutes and 45 seconds into "Down South Dog." Moments like that - and there are plenty of them throughout the album - are what elevates Solace above the fray. There's an unmistakable talent for composition displayed on A.D., one that more often than not transcends the genre and serves as a benchmark of quality songwriting. Every song isn't exceptional (for example, the main riff to "Borrowed Immunity" is a bit too clunky), but every song has a praise worth moment (the ending to "Borrowed Immunity" makes up for its shortcomings).
It may have taken too damn long for A.D. to see the light of day, but there's no denying it delivers everything you'd expect from a Solace album and then some. It is the sum of everything we've heard from them multiplied by the promise of what they can be. Highly recommended.
- John Pegoraro
If you’ve heard Solace’s past work, ain’t no way you’d ever accuse the band of being wimpy. But somewhere between Solace’s last album 13 (a mere seven years ago) and its latest these Jersey boys testosteroned up even further. A.D. is an out-and-out metal album, not stoner rock or doom or whatever subgenre you want to call it. That’s not to say that acid-drenched sludge isn’t still the meat and potatoes of Solace’s sound, but the condiments include some thrash metal guitar accents, larynx-shredding screams and enough bile to choke a Fox News talk show host. This is all a good thing – a lot of the band’s early work sounded like there was a headbanging monster snarling to burst out, skin and organs a-flying; now that it has, Solace has truly come into its own. Guitarists Tommy Southard and Justin Daniels keep the riffs flowing while maintaining structure, the rhythm section pounds when it should and swings when it needs to, and frontdude Jason gives a tour de force performance, shrieking, crooning, moaning, growling and intoning as if he’s finally found his voice. Down South Dog, The Immortal, the Dead and the Nothing and the massive epic From Below smash and bash, but with a grace that comes from tight musicianship and attention to craft. It may be indulging in a cliché to say so, but A.D. is the album to which Solace has been building up for its entire career.
- Michael Toland
I must be honest, when i heard that Solace was finally bringing out a new album, it made me worried. After all its been 7 years since their last album 13, was released. A lot can happen in 7 years and when it comes to bands, quite often bands lose their edge, changed their style or even worse go commercial. In the case of the new Solace album called A.D, i was elated to hear the band still kicks some major ass and they still have all the elements which made this band great in the first place. Now the 13 album was one of my favorite albums of 2003, so sliding this new album into the CD player, i broke out into a sweat with nervous anticipation. When "The Disillusioned Prophet" hit my eardrums, it was a wonderful experience as the band is still pretty much the same but their musical chops seem to be more refined and tighter than ever before. The 7 year break hasn't gone un-wasted it seems because there has been some obvious growth in the band technical abilities as musicians. The opening track features some of the best vocal work Jason has ever laid down and the guitar solo is pure inspirational stuff. There is a kind of classy element to it, you could even put in the classic rock category as it stinks of a Tony Iommi meets Jimmy Page type of quality. "The Immortal, the Dead and the Nothing" which is the second track is another killer track, the almost complex blending of acoustic and electric guitars and the mammoth layered vocals show the band has gain a certain amount of progressive rock qualities while still remaining a kick-butt outfit.
"Six Year Trainwreck" has some real catchy riff work while "Za Gamman" hints at the Solace of old as its more in the sludgy, doom vein. A.D really takes off at this point in the album not that the earlier tracks don't blow you over, its just at track four you get the sense that this album is not only a keeper but just maybe is Solace's holy grail of recordings. "Borrowed Immunity" is a groove based track and is pretty straight-forward compared to a lot of other tracks on A.D. Its not less memorable however as it has another great riff and more dynamic vocals from Jason. The guitar duo of Tommy Southard and Justin Daniels really shine on this album but its tracks like "Borrowed Immunity" where the interplay between these two guys is immaculate. "Down South Dog" is a constantly changing stoner boogie tune that never gets dull over its eight minutes. Made up of separate parts rather than the typical verse/chorus, it is a engaging track from start to finish.
When that leads into "The Eyes of the Vulture" which is pure meat and potatoes rock and roll and again the band is on fire. Its one of the more basic tunes but stands up on its own on the album. "The Skull of the Head of a Man" brings back the bands hardcore roots for 2 minutes of aggressive shouting punk rock but still with some of the most catchy hooks you will hear this year, short and sweet this leads into the finale of the album and its a doozy. "From Below" is doom the way Solace do it best, which is with tempo changes and different musical textures but this is one of the darkest chunks of doom the band has ever written. Chugging, twisting and turning and full of pleasant musical surprises, this is a mesmerizing slab of doom rock for its entire 9-10 minutes. There is everything from a wah-wah guitar section to a throaty, shouting aggressive climax, its diverse and totally addictive listening. Then its all over, this is a defining moment in the career of Solace and one you wont want to miss. Still underground and under appreciated by most, this is album that deserves to be played to death. About as close to perfect as you can get. Amen! 9.5/10
The only time I ever heard Godspeed was when they teamed up with Bruce Dickinson on the Black Sabbath tribute compilation Nativity in Black; their cover of “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” was one of the stand-outs on the comp for me. Now, this was back in 1994 and, if I remember correctly, that was a pretty depressing time, especially with the hard rock/nu-metal machine picking up steam, so if I dismissed Godspeed I probably had a good reason. Anyway, this doesn’t really have much to do with anything other than the fact that Godspeed broke up and morphed into Solace. After a few years of EPs and demos, Solace made a big statement at the turn of the millennium with their debut full-length, Further, which, despite its mid-90s nu-metal leanings, offered enough fuzz n’ roll to put ‘em in favour with the likes of beards like me. The New Jersey band then stumbled through some hard luck years in which they released 13, their weakest effort for me despite a guest appearance from Wino (I thought there was just too much of the ol’ mid-90s hard rock/nu-metal sound on it, much more so than on Further), but then resurfaced and rebounded nicely in 2007 with the four-song EP, The Black Black. Of course, when Solace released The Black Black they were already writing and recording this album, so clearly it was a sign of things to come, and now finally, three years later, A.D. is here and it’s easily their best album yet.
Solace has finally shed any and all evidence of the 90s from their music (the bad parts, anyway) and have packed A.D. with the kind of jet engine riffs and world moving grooves that should squash any doubts about them being a bona fide stoner rock band, if there ever were any. I gotta believe it took a long time to get this one out because Solace recorded it on to tape deep inside a crater on Saturn and then transmitted the heavy cosmic biker metal back to Earth via busted satellites floating out in some giant scrapheap in space. If you need reference points, start with Monster Magnet and sHEAVY, but don’t forget about A.D.’s terra politic, as songs like “Six Year Trainwreck” and “Down South Dog” do a great job of selling Hermano’s dirty desert wares, while the album’s odd ball track, “The Skull of the Head of a Man,” is a three minute blast of some kind of Lower East Side aggro-death. And the whole thing is held together with – and I kid you not – a Warrior Soul-like ultra-violent urgency. Pretty boss, right? Hell, even Solace knows where this one ranks, as the album’s first track, “The Disillusioned Prophet,” kicks things off with the line, “I think I got the mean back.” Well said.
I know I’ve discussed on multiple occasions the fallacy of objectivity in criticism. It’s kind of a sticking point for me. Ostensibly, I don’t even need to acknowledge it — most people who review albums certainly don’t - but the question continues to linger: “How the hell am I supposed to decide whether a given band’s record is good or not if I like it so damn much?”
That’s oversimplifying. In the case of A.D., which is the first full-length from New Jersey doomers Solace since 2003’s 13 (2007’s The Black Black EP and 2005’s split with the now-defunct Greatdayforup providing odd-yeared stopgaps/notice that the band was still active), I’m a longtime fan of the band, I’ve known the guys for years and I was with guitarists Tommy Southard and Justin Daniels at Mad Oak Studios in Allston, MA, while the record was being mixed. I had sentimental attachment to these songs before I even heard them in their finished, mastered form. Now I’m supposed to write a review? How is that even fair?
Of course, it’s easily enough ignored. A review could easily be written full of blanket praise for A.D., which is Solace’s debut on new label Small Stone Records. It would be simple to do that, especially feeling the way I do about the album, and especially given the hard time I’m having even composing a sentence acknowledging that there are choppy moments in the recording that come out on repeat listens. Let it be said, however, that I have nothing really to gain from kissing Solace’s ass. My opinions are as irrelevant as they are wordy, and I doubt very much if anyone in the band’s afternoon hinges on my judgment of their performance on the record.
So, now that I’ve had the weekend to properly agonize over it, and realizing that I’m, in fact, only accountable to myself, please find enclosed the following review of Solace’s A.D.:
Setting aside the anticipation in the stoner/doom community for this album — I don’t think I’m the first person to refer to it as “Chinese Doomocracy” or to suggest to the band they have t-shirts printed with the album cover on front and the words “Coming Soon” on back — what we’re given in the final version of A.D. is a collection of nine tracks of pure American heavy doom. Solace have never been shy about veering into and out of stoner rock convention, and they do so deftly on their latest as well, with opener “Disillusioned Prophet” boasting a solo that calls out Tony Iommi’s from “Heaven and Hell” shortly before uni-monikered vocalist Jason comes on with some of the track’s most powerful singing. Songs like “Six Year Trainwreck” mark themselves out with memorable riffing and interplay between Southard and Daniels’ lead work. At their heart, Solace is still very much a guitar band.
That said, it’s impossible not to acknowledge the time that’s passed since 13, and the inevitable growth the players have undergone since then. A.D. is unquestionably Solace’s most elaborate, constructed work to date. A song like “The Immortal, the Dead and the Nothing” comes on with multiple layers of both vocals and guitar, and it’s clear even listening to the song’s progression and smooth rhythm changes that A.D. is a studio record, it sounds like a studio record, produced. That doesn’t lessen the impact of any of these songs in terms of how hard they hit, but having seen Solace on multiple occasions, I’m never going to confuse A.D. for a live record. Particularly in terms of Jason’s vocals, the complex arrangements in the layering would simply be impossible to duplicate live, and the same applies to the interweaving of acoustic and electric guitars that can be heard throughout “The Immortal, the Dead and the Nothing” and elsewhere. One can imagine, though, that after seven years Solace wanted to make as rich and complete an album as possible, sacrificing nothing in terms of their vision for how these tracks should sound. Their success in that regard can’t be assessed by anyone on the outside, but I will say there’s nothing on A.D. that feels incomplete or wanting further embellishment.
Apart from the later hardcore nod “The Skull of the Head of a Man,” all the songs on A.D. top five minutes, and I think the album really hits its stride with “Za Gamman,” which dials back the production in favor of a more straightforward approach to the doom rock of which the band’s foundation is made. Here the songwriting takes center stage and bassist Rob Hultz and drummer Kenny Lund (since replaced by Keith Ackerman) get some more opportunity to stand out in the mix. The song is catchy, and without asking too much of the listener, provides a stylistic offset from the quick changes in parts and tempos.
Beginning with Hultz’s bass, light guitar work, whispered vocals and some atmospheric noise, “Borrowed Immunity” seems to come on in medias res when the riff kicks in, but quickly ropes the listener with an insistent rhythm and mid-range vocals from Jason. Like “Za Gamman,” “Borrowed Immunity” is memorable in a verse/chorus sense, but with about a minute left, the track gets into a heavy build — Lund putting double bass to good use — and caps off by reintroducing the elements from its start. These in turn set up “Down South Dog,” a boogie riff the upbeats of which are peppered with leads and smooth transitions while Jason self-harmonizes, calls, responds and works quickly to make the song an A.D. highlight. Stretching for just over eight minutes and coming on in several movements rather than repeated parts, the song is nonetheless like flypaper on the brain and utterly satisfying in itself.
“Vulture” [Note: that may be a partial or incomplete title] introduces the album’s end portion with a meaty riff and thick bass tone, falling in line with “Za Gamman” and “Borrowed Immunity” as some of the less elaborate material arrangement-wise, but is maybe the most singly groove-based song on the album. More solo interplay from Southard and Daniels leads into a chorus, more riffing and a big rock finish that sets the stage for the ultra-aggressive “The Skull of the Head of a Man.” Harmonized guitars introduce the song with ringing notes, but it’s East Cost hardcore for about two solid minutes after that as Solace shows their punk and scene roots. Jason’s vocals are shouts almost exclusively until some clever arranging at the end of the song provides one the album’s best hooks over the break beat, repeating the title line to great effect.
And because it was bound to happen eventually, we close A.D. with “From Below,” the longest song at a weighty 9:53, again introduced by Hultz (and after “The Skull of the Head of a Man,” a second to breathe is most welcome) in similar fashion to “Down South Dog.” Jason’s vocals provide the build that will lead the song to it’s kick-in past the 1:15 mark, and right away, we know Solace are ending on one of their heaviest and darkest songs. There are some changes in pace, but “From Below” is doom — period. Solace align themselves with the great names in American riff metal with ease and meet the lofty expectations A.D. has had placed on it since its first reported release date in 2007. The track, like the album itself, is diverse but engaging and even with some soft wah work halfway through is totally willing to bring the listener along through its twists and turns. Appropriately, it takes an angrier direction toward its close, Jason leading the charge with more throaty shouting at about 8:30 into A.D.’s triumphant payoff and apex. It is no mystery why the band chose to end with “From Below,” as putting anything after the last minute and a half of the song would have just been silly.
…And then they’re done.
By way of wrapping up — if such a thing is possible at this point — I’d like to remind again that, as a Solace fan, my opinions are colored and shaped by that fandom. When I say A.D. was worth the wait, understand that I’ve actually been waiting, watching as release dates came and went, imagining what these songs could possibly sound like after so long. Well, after spending time with them and trying to understand where Southard, Daniels, Jason, Hultz and Lund were coming from at the several intervals spaced out over the years during which the album was recorded, I can only try to muster what little impartiality is left and say that when 2010 is over, A.D. will have been a defining moment in underground heaviness. If you’re still reading this, I can’t imagine you need me to tell you not to miss it, but just in case: Don’t.
- H.P. Taskmaster