The Best Albums of 2013, #3

band01In Solitude, Sister

As strong as In Solitude’s critically acclaimed 2011 album The World. The Flesh. The Devil was, one thing people had to remember was this Swedish band is still a work in progress. Their devotion to classic heavy metal aesthetic was endearing on their first two records, but there was still plenty of room for improvement. After all, a band can only play Mercyful Fate homages for so long until people start saying, “Enough already.” While they could nail that circa-1983 aesthetic as well as anyone, if they truly wanted to make a lasting impression they’d start to take those influences and actually do something original with it. What makes Sister so exciting is just how they do so in much more striking, mature fashion than I ever expected. Songs might meander past the six, seven, eight-minute mark, but there’s a sense of purpose in the arrangements. Controlled and restrained, songs like “Lavender” and “Sister” slither around listeners rather than attack. The guitar tones are dialed down yet still very striking, hearkening back to the rich sounds of Uli Roth-era Scorpions and at the same time daring to echo a little vintage gothic rock on “Pallid Hands” and “A Buried Sun”, whose last half is an incredible exercise in discipline and mood. And Pelle Åhman steps a little further out of King Diamond’s shadow with a much more confident vocal performance than ever before. You feel his persona coming out vividly in the music, and the same can be said for the rest of the band, as they truly come into their own before your very eyes. At heart In Solitude embodies all the best elements of heavy metal: flamboyance, melody, theater, escapism, menace, power. All are on masterful display on Sister, and the rest of the metal world has been served notice.

(The above review appeared, in less rambling form, in issue #110 of Decibel magazine.)