Label: Snow Wave Records
Though it’s not what might necessarily be termed a big release, Sol, the second album from sci-fi inspired band Coraxo has still been one of my most anticipated releases of 2017. Their previous album, Neptune, was the kind of record that showed a lot of promise, mixing prog and electronic sounds with melodic death in a way that was full of ambition, but didn’t quite reach the heights the band were so clearly striving for. The feeling was always that their next record would be a big improvement, and now I’ve been able to spend some quality time with it, it’s safe to say that Sol is a considerable improvement, but has a few moments that hold it back from greatness, though it is still a hugely enjoyable listen with lots to recommend about it.
The opening half of Sol is its strongest. Short introductory track ‘Your Life. Our Future.’ gives the album a dramatic opener, all strings and subtle piano followed by bombastic guitars and bass hits, before suddenly launching in to ‘Of Stars Reborn’, which is where the real strengths of Coraxo begin to be shown. When the band are at their most aggressive, as they are on this track, their metal isn’t far removed from the melo-death likes of Amon Amarth, and is almost as powerful. When combined with the electronic and progressive elements, which help add a retro sci-fi feel to the music, it is wonderfully effective and exciting, and helps set Coraxo apart from their peers – as does the saxophone guest spot on ‘Of Stars Reborn’.
Yet, to describe Coraxo as death metal feels inaccurate, and sells the band short. Their song-writing is more ambitious and prog inspired than that descriptor implies, and there are plenty of moments when the keys come to the fore, even on more aggressive tracks such as ‘Satellite’. Yet, the songs are too concise and direct to properly be described as prog metal either – throughout Sol there is a sense that Coraxo want to make progressive music that is cut of all the excess elements that usually weigh such endeavours down, and to that end these songs are short (with only closer ‘Spearhead’ being over 5 minutes long) and full of hooks and catchy melodies.
It’s some of these melodies that hold Sol back from being as good as it could be, though. During the later half of the album, as the aggression is dialed back, the melodies become brighter and, in some places, almost pop-like. Whilst this works when the tracks are considered individually – especially on ‘Revenants’, with its 70’s prog inspired main keyboard melody – the contrast between such moments and the aggressive side of Coraxo can be too great over the course of a whole album. It’s a shame, as individually, these are strong tracks (and considered on its own, ‘Revenants’ is one of my favourite songs released this year); they just don’t always fit well together. There’s the feeling that this contrast is intended, and serves a narrative purpose as much as any of the lyrics or song titles do, but it needs a little more refinement to work how Coraxo intended.
That doesn’t stop Sol being a hugely enjoyable listen though, with clear signs of improvement over previous releases. And enjoyable is the right word – it’s rare to hear an album that has such levels of aggression that is also genuinely fun to listen to. The energy and ambition Coraxo put across is to be commended, and makes it so that, whatever its flaws, Sol is likely to be an album I’ll be keeping on heavy rotation for quite some time to come, with anticipation already building for album number three.
Sol is due for release on 23 November 2017. It can be pre-ordered on vinyl (black and white variants available) from Snow Wave Records. A digital release is also scheduled for 23 November 2017.