Register Forgot login?

© 2002-2019
Encyclopaedia Metallum

Best viewed
without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
or higher.

Privacy Policy

Overlooked Near-Classic - 80%

beardovdoom, December 12th, 2013

Solstice are one of the forgotten bands of early 90's death metal. Probably best remembered for their Malevolent Creation links (Rob Barrett, Alex Marquez) yet they should really be remembered for making two superb slices of death metal. This band have more of a thrash influence to their death metal sound, bringing comparisons to the mighty Demolition Hammer.

The first thing I always notice with this album is just how heavy the bass sound is. Brought up front in the mix but not drowning out the guitars, the bass sits perfectly on this album. It sounds huge and compliments the overall sound. The guitar riffs are a mixture of death, thrash and the occasional more hardcore inspired style. The faster sections have similarities to Malevolent Creation but the main comparison would be Demolition Hammer, a brilliant fusion of death metal with the more straightforward battery of thrash metal. The drums in particular are very thrash inspired, not a lot of blastbeats here but a lot of fast double bass work. 'Closeminded Failure' has an excellent mixture of drumming styles and an absolutely godly guitar solo, stunning work.

I mentioned a hardcore influence, but it's fairly minimal. Slower riffs creep in with a massive groove and there's the minor usage of breakdowns, such as at the end of 'Pray'. Generally though this is pure death/thrash played at a fairly high tempo. When the vocals are double tracked it reminds me of Deicide, only less high pitched. The vocals are quite clear for this style, more of a hoarse bark, making lyrics understandable most of the time. Lyrically this is covers quite a few bases such as pain, religion, politics, mental suffering etc. I'd say from a lyrical perspective this is more of a thrash approach rather than death metal, no gore or satanic rubbish here. An interesting approach to the lyrics.

There isn't too much variation to the songs, but they are brief as is the album as a whole (35 minutes) so this doesn't get boring. I prefer the debut album but this is still an excellent album worth getting. Fans of early 90's Florida death metal will find a great album here, even the production is very similar to the classic Morrisound recordings. Since this and the debut have been reissued together, there's really no excuse not to get these underrated albums.

Recommended tracks: Denial, Pray, Closeminded Failure, Eyes See Red.

Ministers of Death - 87%

televiper11, August 16th, 2010

Solstice is perhaps the most overlooked band in Florida death metal history. With such an overwhelming glut of bands choking out the scene, it isn't surprising that some outstanding outfits missed the boat in terms of visibility, sales, touring opportunities, and acclaim. Solstice, being a somewhat patchwork band with line-up instability, struggled mightily to get noticed. While their first record caught the tail end of death metal's initial wave of popularity, "Pray" unveiled itself far too late in the game, quickly disappearing from memory -- a true and unfortunate injustice.

If history hasn't been particularly kind to Solstice in one way, it sure has favored them in another -- their music has aged incredibly well. The music on "Pray" absolutely slays. It is stark raving mad, frothing at the mouth with both anger and ambition. A lone beacon in the dark metal night of the mid-90's, it is practically an anomaly -- forward thinking death/thrash with a tempered maturity in both songwriting and execution that has absorbed the nuances of experimentation and groove without being overwhelmed by them. Had this record been released a few years earlier, it would easily have been hailed a minor masterpiece.

"The Unseen" opens like jackhammers, unleashing torrents of blasting thrash. It's an impressive start, leveling all preconceptions of thrash and death having stagnated by the mid-90's. In this song alone, Solstice uncoils accentuating blast beats, snaking thrash lines, crushing mid-tempo grooves, and wildly good solos, all of which alternate between precise technical dexterity and restless, reckless abandon. "All Life Lost" demonstrates how the groove that drowned bands like Exhorder and Pantera can be put to good use, accentuating rather than dominating the structure. Each song is great. There's not a filler in the bunch. Everything is well honed, offering a steady diet of excellent metal slightly tweaked with advanced songwriting.

The title track, however, is my favorite. It is unique and unconventional in its approach yet retains all the elements of classic death metal. The bass anchors the center as the guitars (panned hard to each side) ride the crest of the bass's pummeling wave, alternating sides and playing off-time to each other in subtle variations. The drums anchor everything in solid time, creating a swirling vortex of heaviness and speed that few other bands of this era could match. By the time the crashing double-bass kicks in and the guitars have realigned, the punishing wave of heaviness breaks on the walls of a wickedly brief solo. The whole song is masterful, one of my favorite pieces of death metal.

The production on this record is fuckin' intense. The guitars sound thick and sharp. Like a serrated knife, they cleave down to the bone yet leave jagged chunks of flesh behind. The experiments with hard panning on several of the songs also pays off dividends. In another deviation from the standard metal production job, the bass is cranked way up in the mix, locked down solid in the center of the sound. The bass drives everything, it has a harsh clanking sound, really abrasive and heavy. Some might find this irritating. I happen to love it. The drums are tight and deep in the mix. The snare sound is a little weak but it's a minor defect in an otherwise perfect production job.

If you happen on a copy of "Pray," grab it. It is truly a lost classic of exceptional Florida death metal.

Outstanding death thrash - 90%

VRR, December 17th, 2007

By 1995, Solstice had a couple of important releases to their name. The first was the eponymous 1992 album; a recording often described as one of the most accomplished debuts of the early nineties extreme scene. The second was the release from the line up of guitarist, vocalist and creative force Rob Barrett, who went on to hit strings for death metal's heavyweight cash cows, Cannibal Corpse. The following year, and with a refreshed line-up and a continued sense of social injustice, Solstice set about recording their second album, Pray.

Any doubts that the intensity of the band may have dissipated with the exit of Barrett are dispelled from the outset. The blasting introduction of opening track "The Unseen" threatens a wholesale death onslaught which is mercifully not sustained for the duration. Instead, bouncing thrash rhythms sit well amongst a smattering of angular death phrases and atonal leads learned from the Kerry King school of fretting. Riffs roll along before folding back onto themselves and opening out into heavy monoliths; or hit the listener with staccato punches before breaking down into brief contemplative stomps, which in turn accelerate into fully-fledged blasts.

Whereas the first album occasionally suggested the first formations of a melodic line appearing within the guitar tumult ("Transmogrified", "Eternal Waking"), the playing here assumes a rhythmic-orientated and largely atonal role for the most part. One churning phrase collapses into the next, creating patterns which - although perhaps less well-defined - lend an intuitive relevance to each track through their developing of momentum.

Production is effective without ever being overstated. Everything finds its own place in the mix and it stays there throughout. The dual guitar lines remain hard-panned for the whole album, the clanking bass holds the centre ground whilst sounding like an industrial-strength spring being hit with a sledgehammer. The arrangement is held back just enough to maintain cohesion and accentuate the heaviness. Too often you will find a potentially crushing album rendered impotent by an expansive and airy mix that sounds like the band members are playing in separate continents rather than separate sound booths. Everything here though is compressed together and attacks as a thick, single entity that hits the listener like a crushed automobile flung from a rooftop.

Perhaps the most noticeable difference between the production of this and the immense self-titled release is the role of the vocals. The previous album gave centre stage to the diatribes and social criticisms of Barrett's observed monologue, and they were placed highly in the overall mix. This lent a sense of immediacy and focus to the performance and effectively defined Solstice as a lyrical album. Here, the vocals are somewhat lower in the mix by comparison and with the guitar solos pushed further up. Consequently, this creates the impression that Pray is a guitar album. This is something of an injustice to the (again) excellent lyrical content that far exceeds the penmanship of many a bigger name band in this field. The bilious assaults fired at the corporate world by the first album were the essence of the recording; cutting lines like "I wish I had eyes in the back of my head, Coz I know I'm gonna need them" reverberated for hours after listening.

It is a small but significant oversight then, that there are no moments like that here. For this reason, Pray is an album of execution and accomplishment superior to most, but it is still not as vital as its predecessor. If you are unfamiliar with the band, buy the self-titled first album and be blown away. If you have already heard their best work and want more, then pick this up; you will not be disappointed.