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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.