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Solstice (UK) – Death’s Crown Is Victory

Solstice album cover

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If one is well versed in the hard rock history of Britannia, the UK suffix is an unnecessary giveaway of Solstice’s heritage. Instrumental opener “Fortress England” begins with a chord progression and lead guitar full of warm tones and a marching cadence, evoking prog progenitors Wishbone Ash and Uriah Heep. “I Am The Hunter” continues the epic theme, covering over nine minutes with soaring vocals and charge-into-battle solos. Yes—Solstice is British.

Technically, Solstice is a doom band, but there is very little in the four tracks that make up Death’s Crown Is Victory that constitutes death, destruction or downfall. The centerpiece title track conveys nothing but confidence and strength: “Ten are your thousands to each one of us / Yet not one heart that beats in song / We come to fight not to fall / The tide retreats from the cowering shore / So it need not wear our blood tonight”. The only foreseeable doom is that of Solstice’s enemies, those poor bastards.

Guitarist and sole original member Rick Walker has kept the group’s legacy intact despite a staggering amount of lineup changes; current vocalist Paul Kearns is the band’s eighth(!) singer in a 24-year existence. The vocals are also a make-or-break factor for many listeners. Be warned: if you don’t like your singers big, bold and operatic, Solstice is not the band for you. But like their more popular epic doom brethren Candlemass who have likewise shuffled members like cards, it’s enough to put the right people together at the right time to make some excellent, timeless tunes. Into the Void Records has pressed a cassette-only version of this EP limited to 300 copies and are now taking pre-orders.

— Chris Rowella

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