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Technical thrash with a longer attention span than usual - 89%

Agonymph, January 27th, 2019

Some bands are known for the musicians that play with them rather than the actual music than they play. Those who have heard of Solstice, will most likely know them as the band Rob Barrett played with prior to joining Cannibal Corpse, though drummer Alex Marquez and bassist Mark Van Erp are familiar names in the Floridian death metal scene as well. It is worth giving their music a spin though, as especially their self-titled debut album is an engaging piece of reasonably technical thrash metal, filled to the brim with all the precise, aggressive playing one could wish for.

Despite all of the death metal connections of the Floridian band, the death metal element in their music is largely limited to Marquez’ occasional blastbeats. If anything, hardcore seems to be a bigger influence on Solstice. Plenty of blunt force, but more importantly, the riffs are thick and beefy even at their fastest and most technical, which is of course helped by Scott Burns’ production. Also, Barrett’s aggressive barks have a distinct hardcore vibe. The overall sound is not unlike the likes of Demolition Hammer and Exhorder, with maybe some Malevolent Creation, with whom three musicians on the record have played, thrown in for good measure.

Riffs aplenty on ‘Solstice’, but where the band truly outshines its contemporaries is that the songs are surprisingly well-written. In this style, it is quite easy to get lost in a jungle of engaging, but poorly connecting riffs. Solstice’s songs generally make excellent use of dynamics, with especially the ever-changing rhythmic feel of the songs accounting for a longer attention span than with many equally technical, yet compositionally weaker bands. ‘Netherworld’ in particular has a great climactic build-up by starting slow and atmospheric and leaving room for the chorus and Dennis Muñoz’ fantastic guitar solo when it needs room to breathe.

Because of the way the songs are written – not a lot of melody, high tempos – the highlights of the album really boil down to which riffs you prefer. Personally, I really like how ‘Cataclysmic Outbursts’ unfolds from its almost teasing intro to its multitude of Dark Angel-inspired riffs, while ‘Plasticized’ is quite catchy and has a half-time middle section not unlike Suffocation would do on ‘Pierced From Within’. Another true highlight is how opening track ‘Transmogrified’ toys with different time feels even within its first 30 seconds, effectively giving you a pretty good impression of if you’re going to like the album or not.

Ultimately, only the Carnivore cover ‘S.M.D.’ is a bit of a weak spot on ‘Solstice’. The cover is done well, but the song lacks the sophistication of the rest of the album. Because writing an excellent technical thrash song obviously is something you don’t have to teach Solstice. The album definitely transcends the “curio because of the musicians involved” tag, as it is superior to many of the albums the involved musicians would later be involved in. I don’t say that to dismiss the works of Cannibal Corpse, Malevolent Creation or Monstrosity, ‘Solstice’ is just that good.

Recommended tracks: ‘Netherworld’, ‘Transmogrified’, ‘Cataclysmic Outbursts’

Originally written for my Kevy Metal weblog

The Sentencing - 85%

dismember_marcin, December 21st, 2014

There are several labels nowadays, which specialize in re-releasing all those old demos / old albums – and damn, I have nothing against that phenomenon, since a lot of these reissues turned out simply awesome. Not all of course, as sometimes they reissue stuff, which I think is not worthy and not interesting for me or the quality of the reissue is too fuckin poor – but that’s always individual opinion. Anyway, recently in Greece a new such record label has been formed, called Repulsive Echoes. Their first release, which I bought was an awesome classic demo of Diabolic “City of the Dead” – very well done vinyl version of this old US death metal crusher. And later a second vinyl came out, with another old US death metal squadron called Solstice with their legendary debut full length album, here in this version titled “The Sentencing” (originally simply called “Solstice” and released in 1992 on CD). This vinyl release was surely something that die hard death metal maniacs and fans of this album have been waiting for years – there were some different CD versions, but never LP. So, great idea from Repulsive Echoes to make this dream real! The pressing as limited to 500 copies (with three different colour versions), all sold out by now, as far as I know… So, happy I am to have one copy! And this LP is very well released. Great quality print, nice poster, awesome sound. Definitely it’s worth all the trouble and money and will not disappoint the maniacs!

I must say that I haven’t heard Solstice debut album for years. I used to have it on cassette, I had one of those Polish pirates, but that was almost 20 years ago he! And last time I listened to “Solstice” was probably in the late 90’s. I admit also that I basically forgot about their existence and was reminded about them only few years ago. So, I played this beautiful vinyl and listened to this album first time in such a long time… and damn! It didn’t grow old at all! It still sounds so fuckin killer and brutal! And I am sure that whoever out there have never heard this band and this album, but he loves such classic US death metal masterpieces like “Retribution”, “Beyond the Unknown”, “Embalmed Existence”, “Impending Doom”, “Tortured Existence” or “Dying Remains” then he will also love “The Sentencing”! Malevolent Creation and Resurrection would be my main comparisons here; and I mean such aspects as the production (typical heavy and thick Florida sound), dense, technical playing, intense riffs and great vocals – performed by Rob Barrett, who you surely know from Cannibal Corpse and Malevolent Creation and who turned out to be not only a great guitar player, but also impressive vocalist, whose vocals sound close to such Brett Hoffmann. More so, Alex Marquez played drums on the album, so he’s another proof that there won’t be any weak stuff.

The album contains eight crushing and thrashing death metal songs plus one cover, which is also the only part of the record, which I am not so much fond of. It is a cover of Carnivore, who I never been into, I don’t like such music, so in the past I did not like this song and now, when I know it is Carnivore cover it still doesn’t speak to me. But the rest of the album is superb quality, slightly thrashing, but brutal and intense, technical death metal, with such great tracks like “Transmogrified” or “Netherworld”. Powerful stuff, which simply must be played loud, so you can feel its energy and intensity. The vinyl plays wonderfully, I have no objections at all, so… I would recommend you getting this LP, but it is too late now hehe! But maybe you’ll get lucky and get a copy on some internet auctions, maybe you’ll find a CD… whatever, but this album must be in your collection, if any bands or titles I mentioned in this review are your thing! And keep your eyes open for the upcoming releases of Repulsive Echo – Gutted, Oppressor (US)… Damn!

Standout tracks: “Transmogrified”, “Netherworld”.
Final rate: 85/100

Burying the oligarchs in eternal frost. - 95%

hells_unicorn, September 17th, 2014
Written based on this version: 1992, CD, Century Media Records

Sometimes an album's greatness will announce itself simply by who is involved in its creation and the time and place that it was put together. That is the message that is screamed out at any fan of thrash metal and old school death metal that comes across the wrecking machine of a debut that is Solstice's self-titled 1992 classic. Born in the heart of the then booming Florida death metal scene, comprised of members that had involvement with the likes of Malevolent Creation, Demolition Hammer and Monstrosity at some point either before or immediately following this album, and fronted by later guitarist of Cannibal Corpse Bob Barrett, this stands as one of the most intense, and definitely among the more underrated albums to come out of the early 90s. One could even go so far as to muse over considering this one of the best, if not thee best album to feature the person of Scott Burns as engineer.

In many respects, Solstice is an album that is evenly situated between two worlds, one that was starting to disappear from the landscape and another that would act as a de facto stand-in for the former in the years that followed. The extremely punchy, earth shaking guitar tone and punishing riff set conjures up images of the frenzied insanity that made Demolition Hammer's sophomore work Epidemic Of Violence the widely considered swam song of thrash metal, as well as an album that all but wanted to cross over into death metal territory. There is also a heavy presence of early Death, Obituary and even some hints of Cannibal Corpse to be found, the former 2 examples more so in how Barrett approaches vocals with his throaty yet intelligible barks, and the latter in how the drum work makes frequent yet still somewhat restrained use of blast beats (as opposed to the perpetual blasts that Morbid Angel helped usher into the Florida scene).

While the album's cover depicts a heavily thrash metal influenced political meets environmental outcome that would make Evildead and Nuclear Assault proud, this veers more into death metal territory than not, particularly when measured against where the style was at the time. When hearing high octane fits of fury such as "Transmogrified", "Cleansed Of Impurity" and "Cataclysmic Outburst", the intensity of things finds itself somewhere between Leprosy and Eaten Back To Life, embodying two eras of death metal that claim heavy influence from Slayer, Sepultura and Possessed (among others) and lending credence to the claims of both. It tends a bit closer to the more conservative take on where these bands brought things in line with the earlier adherents of the Florida scene, but it is definitely clear that Bob Barrett was leaning towards where he was going to end up with Cannibal Corpse, whereas the rest of the band's connection to Demolition Hammer and Malevolent Creation, and also the guest lead guitar input of old school death shredding James Murphy work a bit the other way.

This is a listening experience that is built almost entirely out of impact, as each one of these songs is an exercise in attacking the ears at full strength, matching and even slightly surpassing the route of albums with a similar approach such as Beneath The Remains and The Ten Commandments. Occasional changes of pace in the feel of things is also heavily in line with the occasional experimental quirks of where and when this album was born, such as the dreary intro with atmospheric keyboards along for the ride that kicks off "Netherworld", which parallels that sort of doom meets mystique style occasionally employed on Human and to a greater degree on early offerings out of Nocturnus and Darkthrone's Soulside Journey, with quite masterful affect actually. On the other end of things is a cover of Carnivore's "S.M.D." that is similarly realized in terms of production, but gets a bit more brutal and hints at Peter Steele's older outfit having some degree of impact on the development of death metal in the U.S.

The fact that this album and this band has not received the same degree of love and attention as several other equally shorter-lived projects from this same era is perhaps not surprising, but definitely depressing. The high visibility of subsequent projects Malevolent Creation and Cannibal Corpse overshadow this band's short 3 LP run simply by being around longer and having a greater bulk of material, but as with anything else, quantity and longevity are not the only things that bring about greatness. It's a throwback in some ways in that it definitely points back to something that was being moved away from by the bands that would come to more greatly define the death metal sound (Deicide, Morbid Angel, Cannibal Corpse), but what it may be missing in genre trailblazing, it most assuredly makes up for in sheer quality and energy. Take care when approaching this nuclear winter of an album, and be sure to dress warmer than the traditional suit and tie.

Awesome Thrash/Death Hybrid - 96%

MorbidFlorist, June 3rd, 2008


I have never encountered a vicious, thrash/death monster so wonderfully executed on this piece (maybe Exhorder may be a viable claim, but only a very pale comparison). What we have hear is a very shamefully underrated brutal, old-school release from Solstice, a four piece band comprised of Rob Barret, Alex Marquez, Dennis Munoz, and Mark van Erp. Half of their members went on to bigger, better projects such as Malevolent Creation and Cannibal Corpse, and it is a rather safe assumption that some of the music presented on this album sounds remarkably similar to those previous couple of bands that I have mentioned. Some of that good old early Malevolent Creation power can be detected in many of the songs on this album (pay close attention to the vicious guitar riffs on "Cleansed of Impurity", "Eternal Waking", and "Plasticized"), in fact many of the songs on their self-titled album could very well fit into the classic Retribution album, but I wouldn't go so fast as to call Solstice a Malevolent Creation clone just yet, let us analyze a bit here.

This monster gets the ball rolling with "Transmogrified", a scorching death/thrash opener of the highest level of Floridian brutality. This song is a wonderful opener, and I often repeat it when I listen to this album. This old school death brutality lasts for about a minute or so before the songs changes gear into a thrash/death hybrid when Rob Barret's NYC hardcore-esque vocals kick in. "Cleansed of Impurity" is a better song than the opener, having many fascinating, brilliant crunchy guitar leads more and a level of brutality that only Malevolent Creation can equal. "Eternal Waking" is one of my favorite songs on the entire album, having one of the most fascinating solos I have ever heard in my life somewhere along the bridge. "Survival Reaction" is another solid song on here, being another above-average death metal offering. "S.M.D." is probably the album's weakest entry; its a rather lame punk rock cover of an albeit unimportant New York hardcore band; it seems innappropriate and rather out of place in a thrash/death band. "Netherworld" is another solid song, having one of the most moody, melodic intros that kind of remind me of that other moody melodic intro in Obituary's title song "Cause of Death" (listen to those two songs back to back, and you will hear what I am talking about). "Plasticized" is another prime example of why I think Solstice sounds like Malevolent Creation, the raw power heard throughout the song musically reminds me of something that should be on Retribution or Stillborn, probably the former album. "Cataclysmic Outburst" is another good death metal offering, this song gets so crazy and almost technical; I hear an Atheist or early Cynic type of guitar technicality on this song, primarily in the first minute or so (very good solo by the way somewhere along the 1:35 mark). This death metal beast closes with "Aberration", another one of my favorites from the album due to the fact that its fucking awesome headbanging material right from the beginning.

The guitars sound wonderfully distorted and crunchy, giving the songs an added heavy sound. Rob Barret and Dennis Munoz are wonderful death metal guitarists, which is no surprise Rob Barret jumped on Malevolent Creation and later Cannibal Corpse bandwagon. But I think the greatest guitarist here is James Murphy (a mere guest or an unofficial fifth member) , providing some of the most creatively melodic guitar solos I have ever heard in my life (listen to his contributions in "Cleansed of Impurity", "Eternal Waking", "Survival Reaction"). Alex Marquez's drumwork is fascinating, as he knows when to use blast beasts at the appropriate moment and doesn't really overpower all the other musicians ("Transmogrified", "Aberration"), very unlike the over-blasting of Mike Smith or Flo Mounier. Mark van Erp's bass is barely audible in the mix, but his bass is reduced to nothing more than a supporting role, or an extra (even worse). But his bass gives the songs that roaring thunder quality to most of the songs.

Rob Barret's vocals are somewhat of an acquired taste, they are very different from most early-nineties death metal grunters. They are regrettably more akin to modern metalcore/deathcore (I guess they were considered an "original" take on death metal vocals back then). I also hear shades of early Brett Hoffman in the man's voice as well, since the vocals are not a growl, but a very harsh bark or roar. I can also sense a level of anger/hatred in his vocal attack and delivery, which brings his vocals up a notch or so. They take some very serious getting used to, but I learned to appreciate them.

There's also a very savage "urban ghetto hardcore" flavor and attitude in the music, both musically and lyrically. Just listen to the New York hardcore-based guitar riffs and the vocals. I am not sure if the band was trying to make a statement or self-portrait out of their urban background or not, but it gives the songs on the album an extra punch, since they sound almost heartfelt.

I highly recommend this album to anyone into early, old school death metal, especially fans of early Malevolent Creation. Hell, even thrash or hardcore fans will enjoy this album. It's a perfect hybrid album. Buy this!

Necksnapping Brutality!!!! - 98%

TortureFiend, August 9th, 2007

Right here we have one of the most brutal and barbaric death/thrash releases from the "morrisound era" of the early 90s... This album is a lesson in absolute anger, hate, and maliciousness! The music here is simply ABRASIVE. From the first song through the last, the listener is repeatedly pummelled by an intense death/thrash assault that absolutely takes no prisoners! The tempo is upbeat, with lots of gallop riffs and downright thrashy mayhem that is similar to some other "morrisound" releases of the era (Devastation tx, Sindrome, Demoliton Hammer, etc. for example) - except solstice is much more in your face and brutal. Shouldnt be surprising since both Rob Barrett + Alex Marquez are both featured on this album, and as you all know, they went on to create the classic "retribution" album with Malevolent Creation soon after... The sound on here really cant be undersatated. The production achieved here is crisp, SUPER thick, with cutting drums that will dice you into tiny bits as you massively bang your head off. Rob Barrett wrote the majority of this album by himself, and also does the vocals, and it is quite obvious he had some anger to get off his chest! Included on here as well is a Carnivore cover that will bring back memories. Top it off with cover artwork by Edward J. Repka (who did the early DEATH covers) and you have one irresistable package of hate every thrashing maniac should have in their collection! First time listeners to this band should seek out THIS album, and not the follow-up "Pray" first. It is a solid album, but the 2nd one does not feature Rob Barrett, and his replacement makes this album sound TOO much like the "ten commandments" Malevolent Creation release... especially with his vocals. This is the true representation of Solstice, and it will kill you.

The name doesn't fit... - 87%

Certain_Death, September 3rd, 2005

When you think of Solstice, you usually think of the winter solstice - the shortest day of the year, and usually a bleak, depressing, and quiet time. It's fitting that a U.K. doom band named themselves this.

Solstice (U.S.), though, are a different matter entirely. A chaotic, brutal death/thrash assault; they completely surprised me when I was introduced to them years ago. The band is fucking amazing. Precise as a fucking machine and twice as brutal, seamlessly integrating some of the most brutal moments in metal at the time with great headbanging thrash. SMD, a Carnivore cover, provides a slight break from the nonstop skullshattering on display for the rest of the album. Sepultura definitely had a big influence here; they also sound something like Demolition Hammer, but these guys came first.

The only problem with this album is that it isn't very memorable; turn it off, and you'll struggle to bring many riffs, let alone songs, to mind. Nonetheless, highly recommended to fans of brutal thrash.