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Raising it even higher - 94%

Dragonforza, October 1st, 2019

Solarus firmly put themselves on the map in lovely Canada in 2017 with an impressive debut album. I know, because I reviewed it before, and I was full of praise and superlatives. In fact, it was hard for me to convey things because I didn't want to come across like a propagandist. It was "extremely impressive" but I did say they set the bar high. That album had extremely tight riffs eliciting power on tap, and incredibly versatile vocals that can flip from immensely powerful to delicately soft. The good news for returning fans is none of this has been lost.

Now with a second offering we can assess a few more variables. The listener will be introduced to the sheer power early on in "My Darkest Days". Returning listeners will simply feel at home. The guitar work is as tight as ever, but despite that it seems to flow more fluently in parts such as the intro to "Limbo" and the solo in "Arrival", among many others. I think they were buoyed by the addition of Mark Feeney on bass and the sound seems more mature and assertive. The roots of the strong riffs never leave but there is more elaboration aided by synths for even more depth.

I like that the bass is brought into play often, it complements the synths in the less thunderous parts which overall augments the listening experience. I've listened and reviewed other bands that maybe didn't quite get the balance right but this is much more on the money. The other 'new' face is Nich Longe on drums who seems to fit in seamlessly, those limbs of his complementing the aforementioned thunderous riffs.

The vocals, thankfully, are one stable variable and one of the unique selling points. I think Sarah really shines in the earlier title track as well as "My World", which is one of my picks of the album. She also shines in the ballad "Holding On" where she is more isolated and hence more of a focal point, but that just shows what she's got in her locker.

I reliably read that their first album was written about a family tragedy and that this was before Sarah joined, which explains two things: the conveying of the power and moreover why things seem more harmonious this time, even pertaining to the vocals.

The power flows more naturally, there's more blossoming melody and a lot of emotion channeled just like its predecessor. I really look forward to seeing how they progress from here, but I'll be very patient for that as you can't rush perfection.

Far From Their Darkest Day - 91%

KanisMaximus, April 17th, 2019
Written based on this version: 2019, Digital, Independent

When I first heard Solarus’ debut album, Reunion, back in 2017, I was instantly hooked. Sarah Dee’s sharp, strong vocals instantly caught my attention and the blatant skill this band displayed had me eagerly awaiting what they’d come up with next.

And, holy shit, did they ever deliver. I was expecting a great album, but Darkest Days is on another level; it’s taken everything that I loved from the first record and made it exponentially better.

The rhythm section is as tight as ever, with some absolutely sick riffs from axeman Lucas MacArthur and killer double kicking from Nich Longe, and is sometimes reminiscent of Amaranthe’s heavily syncopated backups and breakdowns. The parts under the choruses of ‘Limbo’ are especially fucking juicy, and the solo backups in ‘My World’, while not especially technical, are really good.

Now, while the background parts are incredible, the foreground is just as good. Sarah Dee displays impressive versatility with her voice. She’s able to hold a powerful melody but she can also bring it in for a softer, more beautiful effect, as in the ballad ‘Holding On’. Aside from the vocals, the guitars hold the stage just fine. The countermelodies are strong, but MacArthur’s solos are fucking ridiculous. I’d pick a favourite or two, but I don’t really think I can. Each one offers something a bit different, but they’re all just as awesome.

There’s a huge mix of songs on this record. From the titular track, which begins the album with vigourous riffs and epic synths, to songs like ‘The Final Hour’, which bleeds emotion (largely because of that glorious fucking solo, whose divine shredding knows no bounds), there’s something here for the casual listener and the musician alike. On top of the variety, the songs themselves are immensely dynamic. Many of the tracks, such as ‘Requiem for the Fallen’ and ‘Dear Saviour’, go from pounding hard to pulling right back with seamless execution.

Despite all the goodness I see in this record, there is one aspect I don’t like. One thing I can’t stand in music is when a song fades out, rather than having an actual ending, as in ‘Embers in the Rain’, ‘My World’, and the closer. Now, in cases like Solarus, where I know these guys are the real deal, I find myself questioning whether or not it’s really such a bad thing. However, that doesn’t ever get very far, because I remember that I don’t care and I hate it so much. Is it because I think it’s lazy? Is it because I think the song doesn’t sound like it’s done yet? I don’t fucking know. Anyway, at the end of the day, this album is good enough that it’s not a huge deal, but I had to find something to bitch about.

These female-fronted Canadians are, in a word, exceptional. There’s not a single track on Darkest Days that I don’t love, and my list of complaints is very, very short. Solid musicianship is displayed by all, the melodies are strong, and the songwriting is near-flawless. After already listening to it a few times, I still haven’t gotten enough.

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