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A Step in the Right Direction - 87%

Stained Glass Assassin, March 14th, 2019

After Solution .45’s debut, “For Aeon’s Past”, my worries of Christian Älvestam’s new band were both put to rest and left me feeling excited for the future. Unfortunately, the future would not come around for another 5 years, as “Nightmares in the Waking State - Part I” would finally drop in 2015. One of my concerns about Älvestam over the years was, how much effort he would be able to put into Solution .45 as he has his hand in a number of other projects. Length between releases aside, I figured I’d wait to hear the album before making any rash assumptions.

When I first heard “For Aeon’s Past”, I was impressed with the hybrid, melodic death metalcore sound they played. It is a sound that is once again present on “Nightmares in the Waking State - Part I”, but this time, in my opinion, it is much more apparent. It sounds almost as if, “For Aeon’s Past” saw the band flirting with a sound they sought to make their own. “Nightmares in the Waking State - Part I” on the other hand saw the band firmly immerse themselves in that hybrid rather than simply borrow influential elements from the likes of Soilwork and In Flames.

The most noticeable change from “For Aeon’s Past” is arguably the lead guitars. The rhythms and solos on their debut album were plentiful and showed a lot technical ability. Now, although I was a fan of Tom Gardiner’s thick and meaty riffs on “For Aeon’s Past”, they weren’t exactly the most varied or breathtaking. I also felt due to this lack of variation, the rhythms, for the most part, were put into the spotlight far too often, essentially having to anchor the atmosphere of the entire album. However, “Nightmares in the Waking State - Part I” saw the departure of Gardiner and was replaced with Älvestam band mate from The Few Against Many and Torchbearer; Patrik Gardberg. The change is immediately noticeable as, this album is chock full of riffs that have the ability to both, carry their own weight in the creativity department, but also add a distinctive layer to the band’s sound. From thick and groovy, to crisp and plucky and even some heavier sludgy sounding sections, the riffs on this album are far and away more memorable. With a stable of varied riffs at their disposal, the leads are able to better hook the listener and keep them entertain, which leads to some excellent transition with the rhythms and solos. I know I’ve put a lot of praise on the riffs and that is mostly due to their newfound power, but Jani Stefanović’s ability has not faded in the least. The rhythm sections are just as melodic as they were on the previous album, offering an excellent foundation for Älvestam vocals (especially his cleans) to shine, while his solos still have the ability to shred your face off.

As for Älvestam’s, once again, he displays the full range of his vocal spectrum. One moment the man will be growling and singing like a demon and the next sings with the voice of an angel. (I wonder if that’s hoe Miseration came up with their debut title “Your Demons - Their Angels”?) I would say that the vocals are, more or less, on par for the course with “For Aeon’s Past”, which is by no means a slight in any way, it’s just Älvestam’s vocals carry the same awe inspiring presence as they normally do.

Once again, Rolf Pilve creates a wall of sound on the drums. They create a concussive force at times, but also, help add to the rhythm section and serve as a segue for Älvestam during one of his many vocal shifts. They really do a nice job establishing their own identity, but also fit so well with the rest of the team, enhancing the overall sound. The bass, although present throughout the album tends to offer more of an enchantment to the guitars than having its own role. That’s not to say they don’t have their own niche, it’s just they are more of an additional piece to the larger sound. The keyboards as well, add an additional layer that is noticeable, but not overbearing. So many times, I find that a band trying to add synths to their sound to create more of a melodic atmosphere tend to lay them on too thick and they become more of a hindrance rather than another piece of the puzzle. Fortunately, that is not the case on “Nightmares in the Waking State - Part I”.

So, where do I stand “Nightmares in the Waking State - Part I”? Well, I’ll admit I had my worries that this may just be “For Aeon’s Past” part II, but I was pleasantly surprised with additional effort put in to the songwriting (more varied and exciting riffs and extra blast beats), which in my opinion elevated the band’s sound. I wasn’t expecting much of a change from the debut album and to be honest, I didn’t want there to be, but with the additions Solution .45 put forth on their sophomore album, they have taken the first step in expanding their sound without running the risk of losing their identity. As before, my concerns were put to ease after I listened to “Nightmares in the Waking State - Part I” and can only hope their next album continues along a similar path.

Highlights: “Wanderer From the Fold” “Perfecting the Void” “Winning Where Losing Is All”

Into the Abyss of Oblivion

A long-awaited sophomore return - 91%

PhillCantu93, February 11th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2015, CD, AFM Records

I was still in high school when it was announced that Christian Älvestam would be featured as the vocalist for a new melodic death metal band, Solution .45, after leaving Scar Symmetry. Their debut album, For Aeons Past, was by no means ground-breaking, but a super fun listen that at least sounded mildly different from other melodeath bands out there. Unfortunately, they took a little too long for my liking to produce a follow-up, so I became distracted with other metal bands in the meanwhile. That was, until late 2016, when I discovered that Solution .45 put out TWO albums back-to-back in 2015 and '16. Intrigued in revisiting a band I had almost given up on, I gave Nightmares in the Waking State Part 1 and Part 2 some healthy listens, and boy was I impressed.

As a brief side note, I'll be comparing Nightmares in the Waking State Part I to their debut album, For Aeons Past, because my first few listens to this album were approached with the mentality of seeing how the band had evolved over the course of five years. If I do get around to reviewing Part II, I'll most likely compare that to this album, as I understand both albums were recorded in the same period of time (hence, their appellations as Part 1 and Part 2).

The album starts out a bit more extreme than their first album, with the opening track Wanderer from the Fold being not only our first S45 song with blast beats, but also no clean singing. "Wanderer" is also a notably fast song, with thrashing drums and aggressive harmonies being the first thing we hear, slowing down only to allow the song to breathe near the end. Another example of this album being more aggressive and heavy than the first album can be found in the next track - Perfecting the Void - which gives only a moment's notice before going into a groovy but fast riff over some punchy D-beat style drum beats that command a great headbanging rhythm. This song reminds me most of Gravitational Lensing off the first album; it's set at a similar tempo, it's the 2nd track on its respective album, and follows many of the same beats. One more example of this album taking a much heavier, and even darker direction, is the 8th tack Alter (The Unbearable Weight of Nothing). This song, written by former guitarist Tom Gardiner (whose departure saddens me; he played in Hateform and Mors Principium Est, two other bands whose guitar work I adore), starts out with a peaceful acoustic intro only to be disrupted by grueling guitars and a mesmerizing synth melody. It's also a song ripe with great songwriting dynamics, alternating between blast beats, thrash beats, aggressive double bass, and bouncy rhythms that once again are great for headbanging.

Other than the small (but commendable) boost in heaviness, there's another thing that Solution .45 does to distinguish this album from the previous: this album is riff central. I'm not exaggerating when I say every song on this album has at least one memorable riff that I love thinking about or reminiscing on. Whether it's the Pantera-esque groove in the intro riff to Bleed Heavens Dry, the harmonies in Wanderer from the Fold, the razor-sharp 8 string crunchiness in Winning Where Losing is All and Targeting Blaze, the brooding sludge in I, Nemesis, the peaceful acoustic guitars in In Moments of Despair, or the head-muthafuckin'-banging riffs in Alter, this album has much more that I'll remember than the first album. Not that the riffs on For Aeons Past were bad - they were good - but this album has great riffs.

Beyond a few stylistic enhancements, it's pretty standard fare from what I expected based on my experiences with the first album. Jani Stefanovic and Patrik Gardberg shred our faces off; Christian Älvestam belts out brutal growls, searing screams, and soaring clean vocals; and Rolf Pilve rocks up the drums with hard-hitting rhythms. The bass on this album was handled by Jani, and really isn't too different or special by any means; it only provides a modest but respectable foundation for the mix, and here-and-there offers something fairly interesting from a songwriting standpoint. Many of the songs go for the typical melodic death metal sound (Second to None, Perfecting the Void) heard on the first album while others follow similar beats to tracks from that album. In Moments of Despair is a ballad type of song, and while not following the same course as FAP's (haha) Leathean Tears, the absence of growls and screams plus the generally soft nature of the song certainly called back to it.

Finally, the closing track - I, Nemesis - is a 10-minute-plus closing track whose length and brief tempo changes harken back to Clandestinity Now from the first album. Again, not exactly the same feeling or course as that song..."Clandestinity" goes for a more epic vibe, where "Nemesis" is brooding, slow, and sludgy...but the comparisons were too apparent for me. On the actual song itself, it's not a bad song at all, but I don't see it as being anywhere near as substantial or musically immersive as "Clandestinity." I actually opine it to be the weakest song on the album; the reason being is that it merely lacks the atmosphere and energy that all the other tracks on this album have. The dragging slowness of the music could've been played to better effect, in my opinion, and doesn't really go out with a bang the way I would have hoped it would.

So, in conclusion, Nightmares in the Waking State Part I is a modest but excellent expansion on the sound they established with For Aeons Past. It's more diverse, has cooler, more creative riffs, has a few blast beats (finally!), and is both darker and lighter in many areas. Any fan of melodic death metal will appreciate this album for doing a few things that most melodeath bands hardly do at all, and as someone who rediscovered Solution .45 after learning about this album, I certainly will be listening to it for a long time. I can't even name any favorite song of mine off this album, because listening to the entire thing front-to-back is an experience in itself. It's just too good.

On the hunt for a change. - 45%

Diamhea, December 18th, 2015

"Kindly move along. Nothing else to see here, folks." - The final statement of my earlier review for Solution .45's debut, and sound advice that I should consider taking into practice myself. So yes, bravely storming back after the irrelevance of For Aeons Past, these Swedes bring us yet another misguided heap of melodic groove metal punctuated by a sprinkling of stellar leads and Älvestam's always-convincing tenor. Yet another generation down the line, and any faint semblance of quality prevalent in the band's initial lampooning of Scar Symmetry is further eliminated from the sonic gene pool. That said, what we get isn't necessarily another poor man's Holographic Universe like the debut, and it certainly benefits from distancing this gap.

Solution .45 is so peripheral and meaningless, as the more concentrated appeals can be found in much higher quantity in either Älvestam's solo project, or Scar Symmetry's latest. The dichotomy is quite evident, as the record's stronger moments like "Bleed Heavens Dry" sound more like Christian's solo stuff, yet still feel the need to shoehorn in pathetic attempts at Fear Factory-esque groove space-filler in a reacharound attempt at satisfying the metal fans without much conscious effort. I nitpicked For Aeons Past to death for similar deficiencies, but Nightmares in the Waking State - Part I feels more unbalanced, which both works for and against the band depending on the song. For example, "Winning Where Losing Is All" generously radiates sticky vocal lines and one of the better refrains I've heard from these guys outside of "The Close Beyond." "In Moments of Despair" is even better, allowing Älvestam to dominate in a way that only his husky nasal inflection can. Far less positive are insomnia-inducing, lurching groovefests like "Wanderer from the Void."

The heavier tracks also suffer further, courtesy of the weak harsh vocals. Älvestam has always had a very dependable, respectable death growl. But here, he opts for a more mid-level bark, and it simply sounds very reedy and weak. The croaking intervals of "Second to None" are even worse; it just sounds childish, certainly not a stark contrast to the elementary-level groove riffs being hammered out in the background. Even so, Nightmares in the Waking State - Part I is at least partially aware of its strengths, and does try to play to them. The softer songs like "Targeting Blaze" truly feature great synth likes that almost remind me of Machinae Supremacy. The mix sounds really bottlenecked and artificial, so much so that it is easy to actually miss the synths altogether if not listening closely.

Being subjugated to this wasn't the water torture I was expecting it to be, but Solution .45 are still seriously undermining their potential. In a way it is frustrating, because Nightmares in the Waking State - Part I has several quite good songs which deserve better company, including "Winning Where Losing Is All" and "Targeting Blaze." Älvestam's cleans are in fine form, and he chooses more memorable vocal lines than perhaps ever. As I mentioned, a lot of this sounds like his solo project, which again drives home Solution .45's irrelevance as a band. Why not focus your attention on more rewarding (for you and us) undertakings? I can give this album a lukewarm recommendation for early Scar Symmetry fans, which is more than I could say for the debut. An improvement, I guess...