Label: Metal Blade
Sister Official Video: Youtube Link
What do you think of when someone says “goth metal”? Keyboards, probably. Or Scandinavian women in corsets singing pseudo-operatic vocals, whilst behind her a bunch of guys play pretty basic Euro-metal. Either way, it’s a term that fills me with dread, and I wish it didn’t exist, not least because then I could describe this album as goth metal and not feel like a total fool.
Let’s make it clear before we go any further: this is not goth metal as it is usually understood, or as caricatured in the opening of this review. Instead, it’s goth metal as in the bastard offspring of 80s post-punk/goth and metal. It’s also gloriously brilliant, and incredibly addictive. Listening back to the band’s prior work after hearing Sister, it seems clear that the signs for such a stylistic leap were there, but even so, this is a huge leap forward for the band who have created something very special in this album.
Perhaps the first thing that stands out is the production. Whereas previous album The World. The Flesh. The Devil had a production that can only be described as “metal”, giving the band a sound that belonged very firmly to traditional heavy metal and doom, the production on Sister really strengthens the post-punk side of things. It’s full and clear, yet with something haunting about it. That the opening track, He Comes, is full of acoustic guitars and echoed vocals doesn’t hurt matters, either. Yet when first track proper, Death Knows Where, kicks in, the listener should soon be left under no illusions as to the nature of the album. Said song is a superb lead-in, absolutely anthemic and powerful. It’s both traditional metal and post-punk, taking the best elements of each genre and combing them brilliantly in these songs.
And what songs they are! As foolish as this may initially sound, they really are the strength of the album. Each one has its own identity, yet stays within the template laid out from the start. They are catchy as hell too, with Pelle’s vocals being especially strong, with choruses that demand to be sung along to. They also demonstrate just how broad a palate can be created from this stylistic combination, with songs that are, by turns, romantic, brooding, and energetic, bringing to mind all manner of comparisons yet never sounding like anyone other than In Solitude. Pallid Hands is perhaps my favourite track, featuring an opening guitar line that any number of 80s goth bands would have killed for, but it’s a tough call. Each song is superb, with their own highlights, and you get the sense listening to the album that the band know they’re on to something special. The title track is as danceable as metal can surely be without becoming something totally un-metal, and the interplay between the guitars in the second half of Horses In The Ground is thrilling. Meanwhile, closing track Inmost Nigredo opens in an almost lounge-jazz style before gradually building to something utterly devastating, with closing guitar work that is only just short of black metal. There’s the odd hint of keyboard and piano at points throughout the album, as well as a brief guest spot from Jarboe on Horses In The Ground, but these are details that add to the whole without drawing focus away from the core of the band.
The band have spoken in interviews about how they didn’t feel they were really moving away from metal whilst writing this album, and even if the over-riding feel I get from this album is of 80s post-punk, that it’s a metal album at heart is undeniable. It’s the kind of record that should really see the band become absolutely huge, but I can imagine more conservative metal fans complaining about the post-punk feel, or conservative post-punk fans (as an aside, doesn’t that statement feel like an oxymoron?) shunning it because of the metal elements. If so, it’s their loss – such a mix of genres is fairly challenging. In Solitude have absolutely cracked it, though. This album is compelling, addictive, thoroughly enjoyable, and highly recommended.