By Adrien Begrand
For some inexplicable reason we’ve been witnessing a modest wave of Scandinavian bands that not only specialize in the traditional heavy metal sounds of the 1970s and ’80s, but seem to totally get the sound, the aesthetic, the feel, the organic production better than anyone in North America. It’s great seeing bands from our continent carrying the proverbial torch, but it seems these Swedes have an incredible knack for making themselves sound like they came from a 1983 Banzai Records compilation rather than 2011. When a band takes that vintage style and absolutely nails it, like Portrait, like Ghost, like Year of the Goat, like Helvetets Port, like Bullet, and in this particular case, like In Solitude, it’s enough to make any metal geezer over the age of 40 realize that there just might be hope for metal after all. Some kids out there are actually digging Mercyful Fate and Angel Witch more than Suicide Silence and Whitechapel, and that’s a wonderful, wonderful thing.
In Solitude’s second album arrives at the worst possible time, oddly enough; you’ve got to wonder why on earth Metal Blade would release The World.The Flesh.The Devil two weeks after putting out Portrait’s own second full-length Crimen Laesae Majestatis Divinae. After all, both bands couldn’t be more similar. Not only do both feature twin lead guitarists bent on capturing the style of Mercyful Fate’s Michael Denner and Hank Shermann as accurately as possible, but both bands feature lead singers who model their vocal style directly from that of the great King Diamond. It instantly makes audiences wonder if this isn’t all just overkill when in fact they should be plenty excited that we have two bands as great as these.
Although on paper the similarities between Portrait and In Solitude are remarkable, they take contrasting enough approaches to make those savvy in the classic metal department able to tell the differences. In a nutshell, Portrait is a dead-on homage to the intricacy and atmosphere of Melissa, while In Solitude takes a simpler route, more like “Nuns Have No Fun” with a distinct touch of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. And in the latter’s case, they do it all extremely well. It may be formulaic, but the music is very accessible, not to mention smartly written. It’s not galloping for the sake of galloping; there are some genuine dynamic touches going on during all eight tracks. The longer tracks stand out, especially the spellbinding one-two climax of “Dance of the Adversary” and the stupendous, 13 minute “On Burning Paths”, which may be labyrinthine in structure but ebb and flow between aggressive fare and pensive moments with surprising grace.
The more direct fare works just as well, too, whether the bracing title track or the surprisingly hook-oriented “Serpents Are Rising”. Rather than attempt King Diamond’s falsetto – let’s face it, Portrait’s Per Kerlsson does it extremely well – singer Pelle “Hornper” Åhman ably replicates King’s mid-range moan. However, it’s not just a pale imitation. He brings some honest-to-goodness depth to the lead vocals, his phrasing and melodies distinct enough to make the style his own. Like all the aforementioned bands, that’s the key, to take a classic form of metal and create something original while remaining within the boundaries of that formula. On The World.The Flesh.The Devil In Solitude does a near-perfect job of it, and we can only hope even more young bands will follow this band’s and their peers’ example, not only to expose more young metal fans to this great sound, but also because we geezers simply can’t get enough of it.