It is time to start another blog with an apology and it is something I really need to get on top of to be honest. Another submission which got lost in the sea of emails that I have been receiving and this time it comes from Belgium based side project, Soul Dissolution - sorry for the delay sirs, also sorry for getting the title wrong when I first posted the review. Formed as a studio companion piece to the band L'Hiver en Deuil, the band consist of Acharan on vocals and all arrangement and music coming from Jabawock. The band have no desire to take this project out of the studio and they were joined by Forge Stone on drums during the recording session which was mixed by Ars Arcanum Productions and mastered by Justin Weis at Trakworx (who have been responsible for the sound of Agalloch, Amenra and others). The cover is of a black & white water scene, overlooking a rotten pier which is being reclaimed by nature. It is a stark image and one that gives intrigue, so how does the album sound?
Starting the album is “Waiting” which starts off with calm and gentle beginning. It combines tones of shoegazing and drone metal, with bells ringing in the background and multi-layered guitars. Straight away, there is a comparison to Agalloch in style and content of the song. The vocals are growling, but not as harsh I was expecting either. It is a very competent song that is easy to lose yourself in, with a swirling riff that also contains a Celtic sound and this song is an incredibly strong beginning to this record. “This Red Painting in The Sky” does not contain the start with the same patient build as the band start straight away, with this slice of doomgaze rolling around your sound system with a fierce and aggressive addition to their sound. It is still a song that has dreams attached to the sound, but there is added power to the sound and energy to the riff that gives the song a harsh edge. It rolls around you and depending on the mood will either be one for bouncing around to or for getting lost in the lyrics, the song has a dual identity and both are equally as relevant and essential to the song and the sound of the band. “And Every Single Step” continues the aggression, hitting you with a kick that all good melodic Black Metal bands are capable of doing. It is frantic and clawing at you during the beginning, a manic song that grabs you and runs away with your soul; then it seems to pauses for a brief rest bite around the three-minute mark where the strings start and clear vocals come in, if only so both the band and the listener can have a break. But no sooner that you can say “By Odin’s Beard” then the manic nature of the song is re-released and it is all systems go until the shoegazing ending which is a perfect companion to those aggressive moments in the song. “Anchor” commences with synths and a gentle, yet firm riff being strummed at the sound drifts around and you are awaiting the noise and doomgazing element to hit you. The wait is not that long and soon enough, the band are soon hitting their stride with a sound that contains both the shoegaze sound that was made famous by British bands such as Slowdive and the melodic Black Metal of bands such as Cult of Luna and holding them in perfect harmony, which is not as easy as it sounds. When the seven minutes are over, it seems like no time has passed at all and that the dream is still being pursed, the riff and vocals on this song are beautiful and it really does make everything come into focus and form such a glorious piece of music. The halfway point is marked with “Immanence of Unfulfillment” which is a brief two minute plus interlude and sounds like you have come in halfway through a dream and ends just when you are wanting to hear more of what is going on.
Starting the second half of the album is “The Final Dissolution, Part 1 - Hatred Spawned from Longing”, which is part of a trilogy of songs at the very backbone of the album. This starts with the briefest of rest bites and then it is straight into the harsher side of the band. The black metal element of the band is the dominating factor on this song and it rarely dips below full attack mode and the song just seems to be over so quickly; considering this is one of the longest number of the album, that is quite an achievement in itself and it is a great start to this trilogy. The second instalment is called “The Final Dissolution, Part 2 - Fields of Stone” which starts with clear strings being strummed and the shoegazing comes back into focus as this brief, fragile, butterfly-esque moment swirls around you for six minutes and gives you a moment to pause. It is a beautiful piece, but it goes straight into the final part of the trilogy “The Final Dissolution, Part 3 - Pale Distant Light”. But more on that in a little moment; for now, this brief acoustic driven section is really good, but short and does not seem to make its true impact till the moment that “The Final Dissolution, Part 3 - Pale Distant Light” enters the arena. This song brings all the elements from the last two songs together and ties up all the loose ends into a fantastic piece of melodic Black Metal that sends shivers down your spine, but it could have been much more in a way for my money. Much like other bands of this genre, I cannot see the reason behind the final two sections of this trilogy being kept separate; the join is so natural that it could have been an intense two-part set which instead of three and made just as much impact. It felt like an unnecessary pause which can take away a little piece of the momentum of the overall arc of the track. But that is a personal thing and does not detract from the overall success of the songs as a whole. The penultimate track is called “Echoes of Dissolution” which acts as a coda to the last four songs, following on a similar chord progression and by the nature of the title, it is as repetitive as an echo. Now I understand why this one is separate, it makes sense and it is a short, brief glorious looping sound that is over far too soon for my money, but it is still beautiful. Ending this record is a cover of the October Tide song “Sweetness Dies”, (this song is only available if you purchase the album, you cannot hear it through streaming services) now October Tide are not a band I am familiar with and I cannot say I have knowingly heard any of their music beforehand. For the purposes of this review, I did search out the original version of “Sweetness Dies” just to get a comparison and it seems to be a very faithful cover to the original. Both versions have a taste of Paradise Lost about them, especially the ‘Icon’ period of the Yorkshire legends. The Soul Dissolution version is incredibly faithful to the original, which is no great shame and it sound fantastic, albeit a mirror image of the source and still ends the album on a high point.
What Soul Dissolution have managed to do on a lot of these songs is marry two style which naturally go together, but it is not a marriage that is easy to control and it takes steady and patient hands to keep them both relevant. I have heard this sort of style when it has sounded like two pigs fucking, when this band hits the right spots, it is as good as any band out there – the late Agalloch, Cult of Luna, Anathema, Alcest, even the new found leader Deafheaven as well as October Tide (a band who have clearly been an influence based on their cover version) and their influence Paradise Lost, this band should automatically be held in the same regard and high esteem that these bands seem to be held in. It is by no means a perfect record, it has a few issues for me which I have listed above when it comes to song lengths and songs which could form one glorious moments. But these are small things, personal taste issues in my mind and do not take away from this – this is one of the best melodic Black Metal albums I have heard in an awful long time, the mood is dark and this album is a must for all fans of the genre. On a personal note to the band – take this out of the studio and play it live, it is too good to be just a studio project.
9 out of ten – Almost perfect, almost…..
Top track – Anchor
You can purchase Pale Distant Light on the Soul Dissolution Bandcamp page here
You can follow the activities of Soul Dissolution on Facebook here
You can stream Pale Distant Light on Spotify here
You can stream Pale Distant Light on Deezer here
At the time of writing, Pale Distant Light is not on Tidal