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Solitude Aeturnus changed their name in 1989 from Solitude. Under the Solitude moniker the band's sole release was a demo in 1988, with the rather interesting title "and justice for all".
The demo showcases the bands unique take on epic doom metal, mixing the traditional stomping slow sections with faster, more power/thrash parts.
The sound is not too bad for a demo at the time, although lacking warmth and being a bit crackly - more or less what you'd expect.
The material itself is very strong. The first track Sojourner, which along with Into Battle, is a track which never made it onto a later Solitude Aeturnus. Clocking in at around 7 and a half minutes, this song would not have sounded out of place on the first album, Into The Depths Of Sorrow, and indeed, it would be cool to hear this song and Into Battle rerecorded with Lowe (the latter being a shorter more traditional metal influenced tune).
The other songs, Transcending Sentinels, Where Angels Dare To Tread, and It Came Upon One Night, all appear on other albums, it has to be said, in far superior form. Of these, Transcending Sentinels is my favourite, with apocalyptic lyrics and epic chorus both present.
The vocalist, Kris Gabehart, is the weak link here. His uninteresting vocals perhaps would not be such a downer here if his replacement, Rob Lowe, wasn't one of the greatest vocalists of all time. As another reviewer mentioned, it is interesting to listen to different versions of some of the songs that both vocalists sang to fully appreciate Lowe's contribution to the overall level of the band (It Came Upon One Night and Transcending Sentinels being the best examples).
Which brings me to the bonus track on the reissue, Opaque Divinity, which I believe is the same version that appears on the 1989 Solitude Aeturnus demo (which I am trying to track down as we speak), although I may well be wrong.
This track, which later appeared on the Into the Depths of Sorrow album (although this demo version eclipses the album track, due to an even better vocal performance and the absence of that dry, flat drum sound that marred ITDS) , is by a mile the highlight of this release; where Solitude Aeturnus unleash everything they have in their arsenal - ethereal spoken sections, huge soaring vocal melodies, fast heavy passages, excellent soloing from Perez, and have I already mentioned that the vocals are some of the best that have ever or will ever be heard? Just listen to Lowe's power and control when he sings "when the great river has dried". Truly amazing.
Rating a demo like this is hard then. As with all demos it is an item of some historical intrigue, due to the presence of material that would appear on later albums, as well as songs not heard elsewhere. However these versions cannot come close to their album incarnations, and the demo-exclusive songs are hampered by Gabehart's boring vocals. Aside from the historical value, the only real reason to track down this demo is the stunning bonus track, which never fails to overwhelm me with its power and atmosphere.